Devotions: Beatitudes — Poverty of Spirit

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. Matthew 5:3, The Message

Our culture today believes in fame for fame’s sake.
— Actor Rob Lowe, Radio Interview, June 12, 2014.

JESUS MAFA. The Sermon on the Mount, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. (retrieved June 12, 2014).

Jesus in his introductory sermon gives us a new way of behaving in the kingdom of God. Rather than the kingdom of power, fame, greed, and possession, Jesus teaches an “upside down” kingdom of poverty of spirit, of practical mourning, meekness, desire for true righteousness, mercy, peacemaking, purity of heart and unjust persecution. He speaks to a largely Jewish audience, buffeted by self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, who think they have a lock on the kingdom of God. He re-imagines true and deep happiness, satisfaction that comes from a relationship with a heavenly Father, whose kingdom is surely and clearly coming. These are not eight separate and distinct descriptions for distinct groups of disciples, nor are they eight marks of a spiritually “elite” aristocracy who have it all figured out. Every Christian needs every one of these attributes all of the time.

The first stage of deep and true happiness and satisfaction comes from a total dependence and reliance on God alone. Those who demonstrate poverty of spirit are those who recognize their need for God and therefore turn to Christ, the one and true and only way to God (John 14:6). How fortunate are those who instead of “playing god,” turn to the real and true God for their life and its needs and concerns. They are people who humbly admit they need help (James 4:6), who humbly ask God for help (2 Cor. 1:9), and who humbly accept help from others (James 5:16). They reject the fear of their own emotions, the reaction of others and society’s view that being open and honest is simply dumb and useless. Jesus begins with this beatitude because it paves the way for all the others. The same Jesus who “made himself nothing” (Philippians 2:8) and chose the role and function of “servant” of all now challenges all of us to do the same.

What does this mean for student and scholar? It means that instead of playing god, we submit to God and His sovereign rule over this world and life itself. It means that we take on, willingly, the role and function of a servant and seek to know Him and others around us His way. It means we find deep satisfaction in being the best scientist, the best musician, the best doctor, the best artist or whatever not for fame’s sake, but for His sake and the good of others. It means we choose the real kingdom over the passing one in which we live and work and play.

Lord, today, forgive me for “playing god” in my work and relationships. Forgive me for wanting the applause of a passing world. Create in me the desire for the applause of heaven and the smile of my Heavenly Father. Show me how to serve You and others and advance Your kingdom here on this earth.

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Carl Shank

A Christ-follower and mentor of leaders and churches whose life plan is to make an eternal difference in lives for Jesus Christ. Carl currently serves as the Executive Pastor of Cross Roads Brethren in Christ Church (Mount Joy, PA), President of Carl Shank Consulting, and as a Board Member of the Mount Joy Chamber of Commerce. B. S. in Mathematics from Dickinson College. M. Div. and Th. M. from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia Campus). Carl's insights have been a great encouragement to Thomas B. Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network. To God be the glory!

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