Passage: Matthew 5:1-3
5:1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. After he sat down his disciples came to him. 5:2 Then he began to teach them by saying:
5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.
In the leadin essay, we covered that the first portion of the beatitude is best understood as “[You are fortunate if you] are the poor in spirit…” and that spiritually poor here is in the sense of being beaten down and dependent on external support.
Are you a non-believer beaten down? Are you a hurting Christian? This beatitude is meant for you. God gave Jesus these words to speak and then gave two men (Matthew and Luke) to present these words to you. Yes, specifically to you (even though there are six billion persons and growing who are all “you”). Do you sense this giving? I deeply hope that you do, because the gift is deeply personal.
The pain of being beaten down to nothing – beaten by life, by life changing illness, by family strife, by relational pain such as divorce, by being fired, or any of the myriad ways life hurts us – and knowing that you are powerless before this wave of hurt guts your ability to respond. How is it fortunate that you have been gutted? Clarity.
Clarity is the ability to see things as they really exist. This is true for the non-believer who disregards God’s gift of grace followed by purpose in their lives. Pain can bring someone to God when no others can make a difference. The pain produces clarity.
The second part of the beatitude is something that needs to be seen with clarity by Christians. “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Who is being spoken of here? Believers. What is the clarity here? With Jesus beginning his ministry, the assault on Earth began.
When we read the beatitudes and many other verses, we often are hunting for favorable promises that say the pain will end soon. Especially when we are in pain, we want the pain to end. This beatitude does not offer such a resolution to the pain.
What we are offered here is something different. Perspective. In our pain, we are given by God through Jesus and then by Matthew the perspective that believers have (currently possess) the kingdom. What value does this perspective of possession gives us in our pain? The value is context. The context can be seen in a metaphor.
Accepting Christ does not put you in the court of Yahweh (although your prayers reach there). Accepting Christ puts you on the equivalent of World War II’s Omaha beach and then in the 30 foot hedge rows of the French countryside beyond the beach. Christ cast out demons during his earthly ministry. In doing that he was battling the forces that rule this planet. Recall that Christ’s first action in his ministry was to directly battle Satan.
If you understand that the Kingdom of God is involved in a war, then life’s struggles look different. This perspective opens the door to the possibility that our pain is not punishment, is not the act of a vindictive God, is not the fate of having been abandoned by God. It is the nature of this world in this time. God through Jesus landed on Omaha beach 2000 years ago. Through his Holy Spirit he now empowers us to move through the metaphorical fields and hedge rows of France as we take his Kigndom into the larger world.
Just as those soldiers fought unexpected and seemingly insurmountable difficulty (pre-invasion reconnaissance showed hedge rows, but not that they were 30 feet tall and impenetrable), we encounter unplanned, exhausting trials. Our pain in these trials is often larger than us. It is larger than me. It is larger than you. It is larger, because it is tied to this war.
The pain and challenges overwhelm us, because they are in fact overwhelming. Anyone would be overwhelmed. The size and scope of our pain is tied to cosmic realities that we cannot see and cannot cope with…on our own. We have to be part of something large enough to handle the pain – “…for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” That “something” is the Kingdom of God.
Not only is the war between the kingdom and Satan brought to us by Christ hitting the beach 2000 years ago, the resources of the Kingdom are ours…when we access them. Being poor in spirit means you have reached the awareness of the scale harm and help that you are caught in. Truly horrible things feel horribly larger than us, because they are horribly larger than us. The scale imbalance between us and debilitating events is real. We really are that small.
The help, however, is larger than the harm though. The Kingdom in its full size is a vast place. The Kingdom’s presence on this Earth unfortunately is fairly small. The Kingdom’s presence extends on Earth where we take it. The help of the Kingdom exists on Earth. It is here.
Yet, this help must be sought. Sharing ownership in the Kingdom means having critical resources at critical times. Yet, we must pick them up. Unfortunately, many Christians wait extended times before accessing the resources of the kingdom. We tend to fumble around in dismay, rather than quickly reach for Kingdom resources. What are these Kingdom resources?
Speaking your troubles to a seasoned Christian friend – the Body of Christ contains fellow soldiers. Asking for prayer – you can receive supporting fire (to use an artillery metaphor) on strongholds and attacks. Praying – you can speak directly to the commander, to your commander. Reading your Bible, especially the Psalms – you can listen to how other humans handled battles and how they were supported. Remembering God’s actions in your life – you can recognize early training and how those times may now give you clarity. Asking others how God has helped them – you are not alone and you can ask for advice and draw on support. Requesting the laying on of hands – you can request direct assistance and encouragement. Asking for anointing – you can ask for power. Telling yourself the truth – you can choose to stay in clarity about you and your situation. Telling yourself the truth from Scripture – you can counter the fifth column of your sin impacted self as it tries to weaken and deceive you.
Notice every sentence in the list above begins with a verb. Wars are active things. The response to war is also active. Passive response occurs as well, but active response is required. Wars demand active responses. Otherwise, they run over you. Yes, clarity is the first victim of war, The normally simple and clear become incredibly difficult. The normally difficult become impossible (to paraphrase a dictum of war).
It is possible to be given back clarity and perspective by a risen Savior that is victorious in this war. That giving comes from his Word and his Body. Embrace the external supports of the Kingdom. Join the battle. Act. This pain has a companion. Christ. He is with you.