As you read and reflect on today’s beatitude, please listen to this track from contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt. We will feature this track throughout Lent.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
This first of the beatitudes is in a sense a summary of the entire Bible. This is where the spiritual life begins: the realization of our spiritual poverty. We face up to being unworthy to be a part of God’s kingdom. The old Scottish preacher Samuel Rutherford barked: “Stoop, man, stoop. The door into the kingdom is low.” Ragamuffins welcomed here!
Notice the tense of Jesus’ verb in this beatitude: “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Here is the present tense experience of God’s kingdom right now, not when we die and go to heaven, but when we live in reliance on God in this moment. Throughout the Gospel of Matthew Jesus speaks of the kingdom of heaven as any place where God reigns. Here is a present reality as Jesus invites us to “receive”, “inherit”, and “enter”. God’s kingdom is already at hand, so stoop low. In Jesus the future is now present (*see below).
We will see that all the beatitudes have a “now” and “not yet” meaning. God’s kingdom “has come” and “is coming” in its fullness. Even now God’s future invades our present. With Christ as our King we live into the reign of God’s kingdom on earth.
* The Gospel of Matthew uses the term “kingdom of heaven” while other Gospel writers use the term “kingdom of God”. As a Jew, writing specifically to Jews, Matthew is hesitant to use the most holy word “God”, as in “the kingdom of God”, lest he offend his readers. It is clear that these two expressions, “the kingdom of heaven” and “the kingdom of God” speak of the same reality (compare Matthew 5:3 with Luke 6:20).
PONDER AND PRAY
“Those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”—Romans 5:17
- How do you see yourself as spiritually poor?
- What do you sense the Spirit of God is saying to you about your spiritual poverty?
- What would it mean for you to live reliantly on God today?
- What do you think the Apostle Paul means by “exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ”?