On the Poor in Spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom of the earth belongs to the tireless. The kingdom of the earth belongs to those who can walk the fine line between self-promotion and humility. The kingdom of the earth belongs to those who embrace certainty. The kingdom of the earth belongs to those who are willing to work for it.

As a younger man, I would have been ready to turn my back on all things “worldly” in a moment. Who needs the things of this world anyway? I have all I need and more in the spiritual realms. But then a curious thing happened.

I fell in love.

All at once, it seemed. One day I could sing–with full integrity–those beautiful words of the old hymn: “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance, now and always; Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, High King of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.” It all used to seem so simple. I could choose the things of this earth, or I could choose to store up all treasure in heaven. But, like I said, it just doesn’t seem that simple anymore. How can I heed not riches while I work a job to provide for my family? And what could it possibly mean to place my priorities perfectly in line, so that God would be first, my wife second, my family third, etc.?

Here is where I begin to recognize some familiar baggage that I bring into the conversation. I operate under the delusion that this world is inherently defective, evil, and harmful to my spirituality. This thinking, dubbed long ago “gnosticism,” has spread farther into our thinking than we realize. Is the Christian life a series of choices between being earthly or heavenly? This gnostic separation of heaven and earth leaves us in a perpetual state of self-doubt, and consequently, of self-focus.

Perhaps, though, we are called to more than we have ever imagined. Perhaps we are being challenged by the same voice that came to Peter in a dream: “What God has made clean, do not call common.” Perhaps we are being called to let go of our comfortable dichotomy of heaven and earth.

What does it look like when the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth collide? What would the church look like if we worked hard in our professions but rested once a week? What would the church look like if we simply let our lives speak? What would the church look like if we were willing to embrace mystery over certainty? What would the church look like if we were willing to play (at least) as hard as we work? What if our lives began to resemble those who are in the throes of love? Would they be that unpredictable? Could they be that wild? Should they be that messy? I wonder if that sort of living is what Jesus had in mind when he talked about the poor in spirit inheriting his kingdom. Could the type of people he had in mind be so down to earth that their spirituality was not immediately evident?

Would they be the type of people who would only reveal themselves in the breaking of the bread?

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