Matthew 5:3 (ESV)- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I once knew a young Pastor who gave every ounce of his soul to his first congregation.
He believed that if he gave himself to the ministry with complete abandon, that others would be inspired by him and love God with at least the same intensity as he tried to love them.
In his naivete, he paid attention to the criticisms launched against former ministers before him. They claimed that they wanted “change” and that their former pastors obstructed them. They wanted to reach out to their surrounding community rather than remaining insular and disconnected. They claimed that they were ready for mission, and that they wanted to stop being seen as a church for the elite.
When the time came to visit the community and put their evangelistic theories into practice, they shrank back and abandoned the young Pastor to do outreach on his own. They even began to attend church sporadically, affecting both donations and the general spirit of the parish. Even still, the Pastor patiently gave them the benefit of the doubt and doubled his efforts. After much work on his own…finally some people from the community began to pour in through the doors. The Pastor naively thought to himself: “Now that they see that people are coming, perhaps they will change.”
The poor from the neighborhood, the homeless, the schizophrenics, the alcoholics, the drug addicts and the “smelly,” poured in like droves. They were welcomed nicely at the door, but were soon treated with a spirit of compassionate condescension that became a clear point of demarcation between the elite of the church and the “untouchables.”
On Thanksgiving, a recently baptized single mother called the young Pastor in great desperation because she had no one to spend Thanksgiving with. Since he was going to take an elderly parishioner to a Thanksgiving dinner at the house of a church leader, he called the household and asked if they minded having another guest. The wife immediately answered with an enthusiastic: “Well of course not Pastor! Bring her over! The more…THE MERRIER!”
The young Pastor became ecstatic… “Finally,” he thought, “they’re finally beginning to change.” Not five minutes passed when the same person sent a text to the Pastor asking that he not bring the young lady to their house because they had no more room at the table.
The young Pastor became angry… so when he picked up the elderly man and the young single lady, he took them into his home. He “made space” for them at his family’s table, and happily had dinner on a rocking chair nearby.
Eventually the Pastor met with the leader and talked about the incident. “But Pastor,” she said, “the rich need to be ministered too! And besides, she would’ve felt out of place among us!” From that point on, the young Pastor turned his attention to the poor from the neighborhood, the homeless, the schizophrenics, the alcoholics, the drug addicts and the “smelly.”
This time, the condescending compassion that the elite exhibited as a means of separation, evolved into clear signs that the poor, the homeless, the schizophrenics, the alcoholics, the drug addicts and the “smelly” were not wanted. The “untouchables” began to leave the church because they could feel that they were not wanted.
At one point, a woman from the church met with the young Pastor’s wife and complained: “Why does the Pastor only love the poor? We’re poor too!! We’re poor in spirit!”
When Lord Jesus speaks about the poor in spirit, he is referring to a condition of self-realization in which the person who stands before God knows in his heart of hearts that he is but a beggar. The beggar knows that he is worthless in the eyes of all. The beggar knows that he is but a pauper who is less in status than the average peasant who boasts about the security of his soul. The beggar knows that he deserves hell- but he loves God so much, that he would gladly justify Him by means of his own well-merited condemnation.
The poor in spirit are those who realize that they are insignificant in this universe and that their earthly lives are but a breath.
The poor in spirit, although powerless in themselves to please God, they do everything in their power to live for Him. So they gather with other beggars in order to call out to the Name of the LORD. (Genesis 4:26) The poor in spirit cry out night and day to God in the hope that perhaps the unfathomable Creator might take an unmerited glance and notice. (Luke 18:7)
The poor in spirit- those are the ones who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Eventually the church closed. Most kept living their lives as if nothing had happened- sipping their wine, eating caviar and listening to lofty music– in the illusion (or delusion?) that they are more intellectual, refined, and important than the poor and the simple that they left behind. They most gladly ascribed to the young Pastor the fault for the church’s demise. He became the long awaited, but convenient scapegoat that their pride demanded.
No one knows the whereabouts of my Pastor friend. Some say that he left Christianity all together because of the evils and the hypocrisies that he encountered in ministry. Someone told me that he left everything behind and is traveling through India in spiritual despair as a religious mendicant... A Sadhu. Desperately searching for God.
No one can find him on social media.
If you see him, please tell him that the Kingdom of Heaven is for people like him.
Blessed are the poor in spirit…