What is the true measure of being blessed? To answer that question, we need to know that another term for the word blessed is happy, so what is the true measure of happiness? External factors strongly influence our happiness; for example, we are often not too happy when someone cuts us off in traffic, but we find ourselves delighted, which is to say blessed when we get a new car. When we see the good fortunes of others, knowing that all good things come from God, we may find ourselves saying, “Wow, what a big house! How blessed can they be?” But is our physical prosperity a true measure of what it means to be blessed?
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduces nine beatitudes, and the first states, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). When we read this, does it mean to go out, empty your bank accounts, and sell all your things to be poor in spirit? The answer is no, but to understand what it means to be poor in spirit, let’s examine what it means to be rich in spirit. A person rich in spirit is arrogant, boastful, and self-assured, and we have all met such people at one time or another or was such a person. More often than not, such people are relatively prosperous in a worldly sense but empty spiritually.
A person poor in spirit is humble, modest, and not self-assured, but Christ assured. Frank Stagg (1971) explains it another way. He writes, “Neither material or spiritual poverty is blessed, but one’s honest and humble acknowledgement of his impoverishment opens the way for the reception of God’s blessings” (p. 105). Stagg adds that when we recognize our true spiritual emptiness, that is when God will give or bless us out of His fullness. That aligns with what Jesus later shared with His disciples, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” for when we seek and acknowledge God first in all things, He will see to our needs and make our paths straight.
Therefore, as we press on into the new year of 2021 to leave the disappointments of 2020 to fade in the rear view mirror of life, let us remain steadfast in our persistence to seek first the kingdom of God. Let us do so with a heart of humility, modesty, and the assurance that we are children of the living God. He will never leave nor forsake us, and He has a plan for our lives, not one of calamity, but one that will give us a future and a hope. Yes, let us strive to be poor in spirit to receive the outpouring and fullness of God’s infinite love for us, and in so doing, serve as a conduit to share and express that love to others.
Stagg, F. (1969). Matthew. C. J. Allen (Ed.), The Broadman Bible Commentary (pp. 61-253). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.
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“God never leaves you nor forsakes you.” I’ve heard that before. “Jesus will leave the 99 to come after you.” I’ve heard that one too. Meanwhile, fear creeps up when life hurls a season of loneliness our way, and poof! Churchy sayings hold as much weight as thin air. Believe it or not, God is cheering us on and inviting us to thrive amidst the loneliness. Yes, it’s weird and scary, but this emptiness is a safe space where you get to hear the God of everything speak the loudest. You’re safe because God is so good at owning goodness amidst our dank, confused, lonely seasons, and because of Him, you aren’t so by yourself.”