Imagine driving up to the bank teller’s window, giving her a withdrawal slip to get some cash, and she says with a sorrowful look, “I’m so sorry. Your bank account is empty. ” Nada. Zero. Shocked and surprised, you drive away and immediately start to create scenarios in your reeling mind of how you could possibly start to generate some much needed income. How will I eat? How will I be able to pay my bills? Won’t Amazon miss me? In that moment, you come up with several possible options in order to deposit money back into your empty account…. get a second job, take on a renter, cash in your 401-K, sell your much-loved 65″ TV (you can tell where our priorities are), or move in with your parents or children (bad idea). Anyway, you figure there are several ways to make it through another month without having to be sentenced to a steady diet of Ramen noodles. Good, I’ll figure something out. I’m pretty clever…. I have creative resources. I simply cannot become poor and needy.”
Isn’t this the way we’d probably try to think through that sort of money problem? If we find ourselves short on cash, we would typically encounter the challenge, think of ways to take it on, and then set out to uncover solutions….always hopeful our ideas will work. We hope if given enough time, opportunity or wisdom, we could get around the consequences of an empty bank account. After all, the requirement for solvency is to deposit money into our bank account so that we don’t have a balance of zero, right?
Surprisingly, we have another kind of bank account which works in quite the opposite way. It requires us to keep it empty in order to be fully operational. I’m talking about your spiritual bank account, and Jesus says it has to have a balance of zero…nada…zip. In Matthew 5:3, he says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I don’t know about you, but for many years, poverty of spirit was always a confusing term to me. I would brainstorm about it, and it never seemed to make logical sense. My question would always end up being, “Why would Jesus say, that in order for someone to inherit the kingdom of heaven, their spirit would have to be poor? Doesn’t he want me to be spiritually rich?” To clarify, Jesus wasn’t referring to a feeling, or an event, or a circumstance. He was referring to an attitude of the sinful heart which recognizes its insufficiency to be enough, and in turn, produces a total dependency on Him for all things. He was teaching that we have to declare a spiritual bankruptcy, of sorts. We have to admit that we have nothing to deposit or withdraw from our empty resources. We no longer believe or rely in our self-sufficiency, and are in great need of his mercy. Blessed are those who confess their emptiness, who realize they have nothing to offer, and who rely on Christ to be their Bread of life and their only source of hope. We draw from His all-sufficient strength, hope, mercy, and grace. We are filled out of our profound emptiness.
What are some practical ways in which we see poverty of spirit? Oddly enough, I see it manifested at times in others when they go through uncertain times. Nothing causes us to see our insufficiency more, than when we suffer. It’s in those times that we realize just how little we really have control in life. It’s in those times that our faith is proven genuine (or not). It’s in those times that we see just how weak and limited our resources are. And, thankfully, those are the times that we’re given the opportunity to experience how our hope in Jesus carries us. Being poor in spirit doesn’t mean we become spiritual giants of Christian character. On the contrary, it means we admit we’re dwarfed by our neediness and welcome Christ’s rescue.
I have a difficult time asking for someone’s help (other than when I need someone taller to reach something for me). I’m independent, persistent, and strong-willed. As a result, I don’t delegate well. If I know how to do it (and even if I don’t, I’ll figure it out myself), I draw on my own reserves, and then please, leave-me-alone-I-can-do-it-myself. I’d never make a good General since they have to delegate, but I’d be an excellent 3-year old.
We’ll never have anything to deposit, no matter how clever we think we are. No amount of keeping the law, good deeds, or right living will get us ahead. This attitude of the heart naturally leads to the next verse, Matthew 5:4….
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. ” Yes, it’s true our comfort does come from the Lord when we grieve. However, in this passage, Jesus wasn’t referring to a loved one’s death. He was teaching that when we take a deep look at our sin against God, it should lead us to mourn over it. We usually use the wrong yardstick when we take a look at our sin. We tend to compare ourselves to others who look worse, and then assess how good or bad we look. When I was in elementary school, I often found myself consigned to write hundreds of sentences as punishment because of something or other I’d done (usually talking too much). I admit talking in class was disruptive, but what about the boy who was cheating? At least I wasn’t a cheat. Therefore, compared to him, my guilt wasn’t nearly as bad….But we’re not talking about antics in school where the teacher is a little upset. We’re talking about rebellion against God who says our sin deserves death. As believers, we’re to compare ourselves to God’s perfect law, and all of us fall dreadfully short. Thankfully, Jesus has covered our punishment by dying a death for us He didn’t deserve.
The last verse I’ll cover in this post is Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Meekness and humility go hand and glove….they’re interchangeable. They simply mean that as we ponder who God is, the thought humbles us to bow down and worship. I think of Job when he was questioning God for bringing on so much trouble in his life. After he had said all that he had to say, (basically asking God to answer his questions), God never answered Job’s questions. He did answer Job with Himself, though. He spoke for 3 chapters reminding Job of who He was, and all He had done. These words from God caused Job to fall down in humility saying in Job 42:3b, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” This recognition caused Job to repent in acceptance of God’s plan for his life. He no longer saw God as someone who had brought calamity down on him, but rather saw God with eyes of faith and spiritual understanding.
Poverty of spirit… mourning over sin… meekness. These are attributes of the heart of a believer. These are qualities of character given by the Holy Spirit that we should witness in ourselves. These are challenges to all of us who profess Christ. Thankfully however, God judges the heart. He can see our intentions. When we sincerely strive to learn and grow in these attributes, He mercifully blesses our intentions. He knows we’re moral and spiritual failures who depend on Him for every good thing that flows from our heart, mind, and actions. He knows we’ll fail to hit the mark, but He also knows our heart seeks what He loves. He forever loves us in Christ despite our shortcomings.
Is your spiritual bank account empty? Have you lost all confidence in worldly things, and see Jesus as your only hope? Do you believe you aren’t enough for yourself? If so, Jesus says the kingdom is yours.
Or, instead, do you strive to please God by attempting to deposit in your spiritual account what you can through your own self-sufficiency? Do you still long for the power to run your own affairs? If so, Jesus says it’s Turn Around Time. Repent. Change your mind about who you live for…..He’s waiting. You’ll be blessed.