Happy are the Poor in Spirit – March 12, 2021

From the moment of birth, we are taught in this country to rely on our own abilities and make something of ourselves. We see ourselves as amazing. We tout our abilities and knowledge. We love us. The road to happiness is the one we pave with our accomplishments. Then we wonder why happiness eludes us. It might just be that we are looking in the wrong place.

Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a series of blessing statements. The word blessing is a word which translates also as happy, fortunate, free from daily cares and worries. As Christ used it, it pictured a person in close communion with God who lives in peace and contentment. Through this section found in Matthew 5, Jesus gives a glimpse into the secret of true happiness. This glimpse reveals that happiness is not found where we expected.

First, Jesus informs us that the poor in spirit are the ones who are happy. These are the ones marked by spiritual poverty. While as believers we acknowledge our need for salvation, we see ourselves as basically good. At least better than others. We constantly look to correct others’ incorrect thinking without looking in the mirror. Yet, Jesus informs us that happiness comes when we recognize our spiritual poverty. We have no goodness in ourselves. We are spiritually bankrupt. We are totally destitute and completely dependent on God. We have no innate goodness. And every ability we have is a gift from God (James 1:17). Pride leads to frustration, while humility leads to happiness. This stands in stark contrast to all the world teaches. We are supposed to tout our abilities and knowledge. We are supposed to mock and ridicule opponents to bolster our arguments. We are right to look down on others for their “stupidity.”

Unfortunately, this mindset has also infiltrated the church. Think of the average Sunday. We inform those around us of our goodness. We promote our abilities and the things that we have accomplished. We sulk when our ideas are not agreed with or our abilities are not recognized. We become frustrated when our accomplishments are not praised. And when prayer time comes, we cannot allow our vulnerabilities to be revealed. So, like everyone else, we insist that everything is awesome.

But the road to happiness travels through the valley of humility. We must acknowledge our spiritual bankruptcy apart from the spiritual riches of Christ. We must seek the good of others over our own needs. We must be humble like Jesus. Then we can be truly happy.