Mr. Standfast

"Nothing taken for granted; everything received with gratitude; everything passed on with grace." G. K. Chesterton

June 10, 2004

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 alms
2. destitute of wealth, influence, position, honour
I 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?"

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.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was contemplating this thought for some time, and quizzed the Lord about it a lot. When I was in China, a missionary from America got up and gave his testimony. In doing so, he told about how he was a hippie in the 60's and lived on a commune where everybody was supposed to help each other, didn't work!
Later a number of these people got saved in the Jesus movement and set up a Christian community, with the same ideas, didn't work!
Everbody ended up doing their own thing. He then shared a moment of his life, when he was sitting on the bank of a river in Beijing, and was watching a group of Chinese workers going home. They were sitting on the back of a pushbike with a small tray on it that they use as a small ute for carrying things around. They were all laughing and joking around, had their arms over each other's shoulders and were genuinely happy. Yet, these were the poorest labourers who maybe had two sets of clothes and lived in a small room with their whole family and maybe some other friends or workers. They usually only have enough food for a couple of days but are willing to share it with any-one, even a Westerner. That's when it struck me, to have the spirit of a poor person is the answer, to be poor, in spirit!! To have no pride or greed or wants other than your daily needs, no morgages or new cars or more money, no, none of that, just be thankful and satisfied with what you have, and be willing to share it freely. There is more to this story, but this is too long now, see ya.

10:17 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

That was my last comment, still getting used to this , don't like to leave anonymous mail.

10:22 AM  

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