October 1

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3

The beatitudes are steps into the Kingdom of God, and they are in the order that will keep us in right relationship with Him. This first one seems perhaps puzzling at first. To be ‘poor in spirit’ surely means to lack spiritual qualities? There are many in history, from ruthless dictators to lazy drunkards, who have been devoid of spiritual qualities! But Adolf Hitler, for instance, never recognised his need of God, even in the last hours of his life. What Jesus is referring to is that ability to see our emptiness in all its horror, and yet go to God in prayer, believing that He wants to help us. This is a liberating truth – I simply have to acknowledge my total emptiness and come to God for help. Really, the only hindrance to this is pride. Some of us may have difficulty with the idea that we first approach God as paupers – it is an insult to our intelligence and gifts – we are not really poor, are we? It is a shock to meet those who are truly poor in the natural sense. Once, on the borders of Ethiopia, the bus I was travelling in stopped near a market and all around were boys from the famine areas, with legs like matchsticks, and sunken cheeks. Our spiritual condition is like that until we are reconciled with God through Christ. It is not blessed to be in that condition, but the first and unavoidable step into the Kingdom of God is to recognise our need of help. It is frustrating for a capable person to think that they may never be able to use their natural gifts and abilities in the kingdom, but the truth is that we have to learn and acquire other abilities. We don’t remain paupers, but we do remain dependent on God. We are servants of a great King, waiting on His will and with pride in Him and His grace. When we acknowledge these things, we have made the first step to incredible blessing.