Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
Christianity is sometimes seen as a conservative set of beliefs espoused by the establishment. A faith for those who are comfortable and prosperous. Jesus tells us otherwise. At the beginning of his summary of what Christian living is about in practice, he turns accepted ideas on their head. He says in effect, “how terrific it is for those who recognise their utter lack of spiritual and other resources, for all of God’s resources will be poured into them.
This is not glorifying material poverty or demonising wealth. It simply recognises that those who face their spiritual bankruptcy are most likely to call for help. If I think I have no need of the mercy of God, then I won’t receive it. Jesus isn’t urging us all to be miserable. He simply wants us to face up to the fact that left to our own devices we haven’t a chance of being right with God. He wants us to face our need of help and promises to give it.
In a strange and profound way, our areas of poverty are our areas of greatest blessing. Our poverty could be financial. We might be starved of human relationships and beset by loneliness. We could be frail through physical or emotional illness. We might lack security and certainty about our future life plans. We might experience the pain of abandonment or betrayal or loss. And we usually try to alleviate the situation.
Understandable enough too. But let’s not forget that our God waits to bless us in our impoverishment. He is not waiting for us on the sunlit uplands of wellbeing. He is with us in our comparative darkness and uncertainty. Our poverty enables him to fill us with his riches, whereas if we are self satisfied in life we might be tempted to shrug him off and make do on our own. Our poverty may only be passing and might not be at all comfortable. But it will also be the time and place where God enriches us with himself, which is treasure beyond imagining.