by Erin Bird

I grew up in 80s, when opposites were the trend. For instance, guys wore mullets (“business up front, party in the back!”), while girls wore tight pants covered by oversized neon-colored sweatshirts (worn inside out, no less). Michael Jackson only wore one glove. And the most popular hero of the day was a short little Italian video game character named Mario.

Even our words were opposites. “Bad” meant good. If something was cool, it was called “hot.” And if someone told a weak story or had a lame excuse, we’d sarcastically say, “That’s rich, man. Real rich.”

So when we read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12, we begin to wonder if Jesus also grew up in the 80s. Because we all know that being rich is good, but he says the opposite…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
Matthew 5:3a

Seems kind of backward, doesn’t it? Seems like a theological mullet – it just doesn’t seem right.

#Unexpected

We kicked off a new teaching series this past Sunday called #Unexpected. In this series, we’ll be studying the Sermon on the Mount, looking at the unexpected words of Jesus. If you missed last Sunday’s message, we started with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12). (Sorry you can’t go catch up and listen to last week’s message yourself. Our recorder failed us.)

I mentioned during my message that I was foolish trying to teach all 9 of the Beatitudes in one week. So I’ve decided for the next few weeks to take a slightly deeper look at the Beatitudes here on the blog, seeing just how life changing the “backward” words of Jesus really are.

And that brings us to the first one: Poor in spirit.

When Being Poor is Really a Blessing

If you DID catch last week’s message, you’ll remember how we saw that when you are rich, you rely on your riches. You don’t need anyone else. But when you are poor, you become dependent upon others.

When you are rich, you rely on your riches. But when you are poor, you become dependent upon others.

And that’s Jesus’s point in his first beatitude. When you are poor in spirit, you are dependent upon someone else spiritually. If you think you are rich in spirit, you’ll mistakenly think you can buy your way in to heaven through the amount of tithes and offerings you gave in the course of your lifetime or bribe your way in with your collection of good works.

But Jesus says the rich don’t get the kingdom of heaven, only the poor do. And he isn’t talking finances; he’s talking about something far more important. Because the monies of this life are only for this life. You can’t take any of it with you. So whether you die with a million bucks in the bank or have only a penny to your name, you enter the afterlife with exactly the same amount of funds – zero.

But you do bring into the afterlife your spirit. And this is where Jesus’s words are revealed to be incredibly sane. If you acted throughout life like you were rich in spirit, that you didn’t need anyone or anything, you can’t get in to heaven. Because the entrance ticket to the heavenly city is Jesus himself. And when you are poor in spirit, you realize your need for Him, and so you follow Him, allowing HIM to make you “rich.” HE is what makes the kingdom of heaven yours.

So today, I challenge you to remind yourself of your spiritual poverty, but also remember that with Jesus you have spiritual riches beyond compare. And may that truth cause you to worship Him today, and out of your joy, lead you to be a blessing to others, loving them like Jesus loves them.