Spiritual Poverty (Again)
I'm still thinking about spiritual poverty. I know I kind of drifted away from blogging about it this past week, but it's still on my mind. What is it? What does it look like as it is lived out from day to day? The first question is one of definition, and the second of application. I want to investigate these matters, and I really don't think I'm going to stray very far from these questions, not for a while.
I'm taking as my starting point Christ's words, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:3) One conclusion that might be drawn from these words is simply that spiritual poverty is closely associated with our salvation. I do want to delve into that point, but I still haven't answered the fundamental question of definition: What is spiritual poverty?
Looking up the word in Crosswalk.com's Bible Study Tools, I found the following definitions for the Greek word for poor (ptochos) used in Matt. 5:3.
1. reduced to beggary, begging, asking almsI think words like totally dependent or helpless would also be appropriate. A sense of absolute helplessness where salvation is concerned. A knowing, like the Psalmist, that "our help comes from the Lord" and only from Him. This attitude is modeled throughout the Psalms, of course. It is modeled also in the many who came to Jesus for healing. It was modeled by John the Baptist when he said of Jesus, "He must grow greater, and I must grow less." It is modeled again and again by Paul, but most eloquently in his cry of Romans 7, when he says, "Who shall save me from this body of death?"
2. destitute of wealth, influence, position, honour
And it is modeled, in Matthew 18:3-4, by little children. This is where Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
I see this passage in a very close relation with Matthew 5:3. But it may be important to note, first of all, that the quality that Jesus extols here was not some sort of idealized childlikeness or innocence, but simple dependence. Children are dependent. And it is in their dependence and need that they were coming to Jesus. And Jesus, as he did so often, used what was at hand to teach a spiritual lesson. In these children Jesus saw a mirror-image of the spiritual condition that he wanted to encourage in us. Humility. Dependence. The recognition, simply put, that our help--our safety, our provision--is in Him, and that in coming to Him, like those children, we find life.
So the fundamental principle is, spiritual poverty is dependence on Jesus. A recognition that we cannot survive on our own resources. We are weak. Without Jesus, we are sheep without a shepherd, prey to wolves. We are orphaned children, prey to the world's evils. Spiritual poverty is knowing we need Jesus absolutely, in every situation.
Now, all this raises many questions, and the questions usually have to do with the "working out" of this attitude of spiritual poverty in "the real world." They are questions of application. How does it look? How is it lived? So what I want to do in the coming posts is attempt to answer that question, bearing in mind that I am the one asking. That is, I am the one needing answers. I am the one wondering how to "work out my salvation" from day to day? Come along with me, if you like. The trip will be better by far with companions along the way.