“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Only sinners are allowed to read this week’s column. If you qualify, keep reading – the rest of you can stop now.
Still with me? Good. I’m a sinner too. Paul said to Timothy, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
If you have been a Christian for a while, it’s easy to lose the sense of being a sinner. We can move into a type of self-congratulations that we are living for Jesus. We compare ourselves to others and think we are doing better than them. We grow full of pride and arrogance and can begin to feel that Jesus is lucky to have us. We develop self-righteousness and forget that we are sinners saved by grace.
It may not be that we are horrible sinners or that we have a long list of sins to confess on a daily basis. Our sin, too often, is that we have become so confident in our own righteousness, we begin to think we are responsible for our own salvation. It is so easy to become self-deceived about our behaviours and motivations – our poverty of spirit. We may not always show it publicly, but it lurks in the heart. Others are judged for their obvious sins while we congratulate ourselves on being ‘so holy.’
Jesus starts his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with this crazy statement that those who are aware of their spiritual poverty are actually blessed by God. God takes up his reign in people who acknowledge that they don’t have it all together, that they are sinful, that they are spiritually poor.
Admitting that we have become self-obsessed and self-righteous is a hard thing to do. When we rely on our good works and think of ourselves too highly, it is sin – and sin is always a barrier to our intimacy with God.
I think it is necessary to always remember that we are spiritually needy and that Jesus meets that need. Our first step for receiving the kingdom of heaven is to acknowledge our poverty, and our second step is to accept God’s riches. We need to remind ourselves that there is nothing we can do to earn or add to our salvation. The kingdom belongs to those who are spiritually bankrupt and yet rich in Jesus.