The verses known as the Beatitudes are nothing new to me. I’ve read them before, heard sermons about them, discussed them with others, remarked upon the beauty of their imagery. This time, though, I approached them differently, demanded more of myself as I pondered them. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I’ve been reading and rereading these same verses for over two weeks. At first, I couldn’t see beyond the familiar words to get to the meaning. God brought several things to me that got my brain and heart going though and I realized that I needed to begin with the very thoughts and ideas that were preventing me from digging deeper into this passage. I discovered that I was subconsciously viewing the Beatitudes kind of like a menu. You wanted to be comforted, then you have to mourn. You want to inherit the earth? You have to be meek. I viewed each verse as describing a different group of people who were given something in response to their needs or wants. In other words, I was totally missing the point. Jesus wasn’t listing behaviors and what they would earn you. He was describing the personality traits Christians should all share. And he did so in a very profound way. He took traits that are considered signs of weakness or even insanity and elevated them above what the world promotes, equating them with unimaginable happiness and blessings.
So, what are these traits we should be fostering in ourselves? First we have “poor in spirit” to consider. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who truly wants to be poor in anything. We are raised to aspire to have more. We may be told to be happy with and grateful for what we have however, no one ever tells us to not try for more. Well, no one does except for God. In the last two weeks I have heard/seen the phrase “poor in spirit” interpreted to mean “broken” and to mean “having no sense of self.” At first, I thought, “Wow. That’s quite a difference in definition.” After thinking a while, however, I realized those definitions aren’t really different at all. We are born with a drive to possess. One of the first words most children speak is “mine.” We rapidly fixate on our things, protecting our stuff, preferably getting more than everyone else. As A.W. Tozer says in The Pursuit of God, our desire to possess things “is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic.” It is not until we are broken that we are able to understand that the objets in our lives are gifts on loan from God. They are entrusted to us but do not truly belong to us. God has made available to us what we need to achieve His purpose for us. It is only after we are broken, after we are released from the chains binding us to objects, that we are free to become all God intends us to be. Only then are we able to truly comprehend all that God is offering us. The kingdom of heaven is, after all, more than our natural state can grasp.