“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom” (Matthew 5:3).
Do you feel weary? Tired? Do you feel discouraged at your lack of physical, emotional or spiritual strength? Today, God is giving us an invitation through this incredibly powerful verse. He calls the poor in spirit blessed. He invites those who feel their deep need and their poverty of heart to come and experience the kingdom for themselves. He invites us.
This passage has been ringing in my heart for months. It seems that lately everywhere I look I feel my weakness; I feel my inability. I see all the gaps in my personal life and leadership, and I can be driven to a sort of despair as a result. This season of COVID-19 brings with it an increased awareness of my limitations, my fragility and my total dependence on God. Though I often face these realities reluctantly (if I’m really honest with great opposition), I have grown to see the beauty in what God is doing in me right now. I feel my poverty. I feel my need. And yet, I have never been more comforted with these words “for theirs is the kingdom.”
Poor in spirit
You see, this verse carries both a truth and a promise. First, it implies that the only people who can actually enter the kingdom are those who are poor in spirit. Jesus speaks harshly to the religious leaders of the day in Matthew 23:13 when He says: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”
Over and over Jesus rails on the religious leaders who think that they’ve earned favor with God and reminds them that their pride and self-righteousness keeps them far from the kingdom. In this passage He also sternly rebukes them for the way they block entrance into God’s kingdom by requiring people to fulfill long lists of religious duties and right behavior rather than crying out to God from a place of need. Charles Spurgeon summed up the reality of this upside-down kingdom in his sermon on this passage: “Poverty in spirit is the porch of blessedness. Till we are emptied of self, we cannot be filled with God; stripping must be wrought upon us before we can be clothed with the righteousness which is from heaven. Christ is never precious till we are poor in spirit. Not what I have, but what I have not, is the first point of contact between my soul and God.”
Feeling the need
This reality is central to Christian worship: the expression of my love for Jesus is directly tied to my felt need of Him. Worshipper, are you filled with awe and wonder at the grace of Jesus? Are you captured by the beauty of His Gospel that is preached to the poor? James 2:5 reminds us of this glorious truth: “Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?”
In Jesus, the poor are made rich. The weak are made strong. The orphan finds a home and a seat at the table. We are given everything. I believe that God has ordained for His Church to walk through this season of pruning together to return to this central truth. Let us not lean back on our spirituality, our good works, or our systems of religion but let us be driven by our trials to Jesus’ feet. All of our anxiety, fear and unrest are entryways into union with Jesus. Every moment of difficulty or scarcity is meant to drive us to the God who daily bears our burdens and gives us all that we need.
My prayer is that our hearts experience worship in this season in ways that we didn’t know were possible. As we humble ourselves under His hand may we find great comfort in His nearness. Let those who are poor in spirit sing and rejoice that we are sons and daughters of the living God. For ours is the kingdom.
Julie Anne Vargas is the Creative Director of Village Hymns. If you’re a worship leader interested in getting involved with Village Hymns, please email [email protected] or visit our website at villagehymns.com/get-involved.