Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
Sitting on the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus taught people in a talk known as the Sermon on the Mount. Found in the Bible book of Matthew, chapter 5, he assigns blessings to people with curious personality or situational traits, and in some cases, what we'd call flaws. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3) is where Jesus begins and it’s where each of our own spiritual journeys, our relationship with God, starts.
Here, we see that poverty is not only a physical condition but a spiritual condition. The Sermon on the Mount opens right up with those who see themselves as they really are, which definitely did not include the most religious people of Jesus’ day. The most religious of Jesus’ time were called Pharisees. One of them prayed in public, so all could hear: “Thank you that I am not like other people— robbers, evildoers, adulterers.” (Luke 18:9-14).
The Pharisees believed that they had it all together spiritually. They were sure, very sure that they had all of the faith answers. You may be surprised, however, to realize that Jesus, and Christianity, embraces doubt. Poverty of spirit includes those for whom belief is hard. Historically, the Christian church hasn’t much appreciated questioners in its midst, but Jesus blessed questioners, demonstrating, that like his own disciple, Thomas, we may have a hard time believing. This poverty of spirit includes those for whom belief is hard and hard won.
Jesus didn't punish his followers who were poor in spirit. Blessed is Thomas for asking to touch an open wound because he wasn't too embarrassed to say that people don't usually rise from the dead, and “let's just check that this isn't a trick.” (John 20:25). Thomas was a questioner. In John 14, verse 4, Jesus tells his disciples, "You know the way to the place where I am going.” But Thomas speaks up (verse 5), “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” Seeing Jesus after the resurrection, Thomas’ unbelief melted away and he cried, “’My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:28-29).
Jesus also interacted with a struggling father who was desperate for his son to be delivered from an evil spirit. (Mark 9:19-29). “Anything is possible if a person believes,” Jesus said to him and “The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’” “Yes, help us!” we cry too.
“When I read "poor in spirit, "writes blogger Karissa Tucker, “I think of someone with limping enthusiasm. Someone with depleted reserves of "being sure." Someone prone to wander. When I read "blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God," what I read is that I am not cut off from Christ because of my wobbly belief.”
Poverty of spirit is the place of beginning. Jesus began his sermon here, showing us that Christianity holds space for dark days, and places value on acknowledging and wrestling with questions and doubts.
If your reserves of “being sure” are depleted today, go to Jesus with your unbelief. Seeing Him makes all the difference. “You will seek Me and find Me,” He says in the Bible book of Jeremiah. “When you search for Me with all your heart,” (Jeremiah 29:13-14). I will be found by you.”
Resource Reading: John 20:19-31