“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– Jesus, Matthew 5:3
This is probably the most difficult and embarrassing beatitude (absolute blessedness) to write about for someone who grew up in Danville, CA. I’ve never known poverty in the way the people whom Jesus was speaking to did.
Sure, there have been times when Shawna and I had to settle for a meal or two of peanut butter and saltine crackers, but that’s just romance. People, children, are starving right now. To whine about my financial situation would be ignorance in one of its most violent forms.
Even the inclination to use the condition of the poor as an illustration for us to understand what Jesus is talking about would be misguided and ignorant. That would be an impoverishment of compassion. Their lives are not illustrations for us to observe and learn from so we can live better or holier ones. Deep compassion for the poor is the truest way to understand Jesus’ words.
That is the poverty I do know: my own lack of compassion and sensitivity to others. In our culture, the inability to be effected by others is prized as strength and wealth. In Christ, it is the other way around. It is not only my need to receive compassion and sensitivity, but it is as much my need to give them. I need the experience of compassion for others. I need sensitivity to those around me.
Recognizing our need is the first step to recognizing the One who meets our needs.
“There is hunger for ordinary bread, and there is hunger for love, for kindness, for thoughtfulness; and this is the great poverty that makes people suffer so much.”
– Mother Teresa of Calcutta
“The kingdom of God is within you.”
– Jesus, Luke 17:21