Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (v. 3).
When we consider the crowds who follow Jesus in first-century Palestine, picturing their poverty isn’t hard. They live day-to-day and are easily susceptible to illness, drought, famine, and political unrest. They don’t know about grocery stores or electricity or antibiotics. Even the monetarily rich are plagued with knowing that a simple illness might kill them in a matter of days.
As we read Scripture through our twenty-first-century lens of relative comfort, these poor seem distant from us. But Jesus blesses not only the poor through his sermon. Jesus broadens the category to bless the poor in spirit (v. 3).
Poverty of spirit doesn’t discriminate between income levels. It comes from years of bullying, loss, challenging family relationships, political uncertainty, and a sense of the mundane. It comes from religious leaders offering condemnation instead of grace. It comes from feeling voiceless in the face of injustice. It comes from needing nothing physically and still lacking everything emotionally. It comes from loneliness and loss. It comes from adding insult to injury over and over.
In this Beatitude, Jesus includes all who have felt like dry bones, cracked and broken. Jesus includes those of us whose spirit lays unfulfilled. Jesus includes those who can’t just “snap out of it,” those whose spirits are plagued even when their stomachs are full.
Jesus offers this good news: there is hope. Hang on to that last thread of it. God heals. There will be a time when each day is not so hard. God is here. These worst things are not the last things. The Kingdom of Heaven is coming.
How fulfilled is my spirit? When do I need to turn to God for hope?
God, help me examine my spirit and seek you in my need. Amen.