The Joy List; Blessed are the Poor in Spirit
I think the King James said “Blessed are the poor,” but I’ve tried hard to read through at least half of the versions of the Bible found on BibleGateway.com and pretty much most of them don’t just say “poor,” they say “poor in spirit.”
I remember that when I first heard a version in church say “poor in spirit,” I worried that some wealthy person had changed it or something. Since I’m not a member of the clergy and therefore can’t read Greek or Aramaic, I searched as many different translations as I could, including Eugene Petersen’s paraphrase, the Message, because I really wanted to dig into what Jesus was really getting at. RSV, NIV, NKJV, ESV, Oxford, New American- they all talk about being poor in spirit.
I knew God doesn’t dislike the poor. There are estimates that the Bible mentions the poor or poverty anywhere from at least 178, to 300, to as many as 2,000 times. Obviously God wants us to help the poor. After, the Beatitudes, later in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), Jesus says that if someone asks to borrow your coat, give them the coat of your back. And of course in Matthew 25 He tells us to feed the hungry, clothe the needy and visit those in prison.
So what the heck does it mean to be “poor-in-spirit” and why the hell would that be a GOOD thing?
I appreciated the way that the Amplified Bible clarifies things sometimes. It’s like reading with a dictionary and thesaurus by your side. Being “spiritually poor” is the opposite of having a “puffed-up spirit.” In Matt 16 Jesus warns his disciples about the leaven (yeast) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. He seems to be really angry about their hypocrisy of wanting to be honored and treated special in Matt 23 and Luke 14.
This makes me think that to be poor in spirit simply means to be humble, to not go around thinking you’re the boss all the time. It’s sort of the opposite of being narcissistic. Is it just me, or have we been having to deal with a lot of narcissistic, sociopathic, self-centered, entitled and bossy selfish people in the world lately?
So how do we make sure we’re aren’t one of the artificially puffed-up people with inflated egos? How can we take a vow of spiritual poverty? How about if we try to connect with people instead of trying to control everyone. Choose a life about love, not about power. As John the Baptist said in John 3:30 “He must become greater; I must become less.” I believe that God is god and I am not.
Being “Christ like” is pretty antithetical to how many supposed “Christians” act these days.
Love, joy, peace, patience, & kindness aren’t just ends in themselves, they are means to the end of building community. What do you think? Is Jesus on to something?
When Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world, He meant His way of doing things isn’t the way the world does things; Jesus does things through connection, rather than control. The power of love, as opposed to the love of power. Try it, I dare you. #beattitudes #sermononthemount #kingdomoflove #thejoylist #joy