In his Sermon the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Reading the late John Timmer’s book God of Weakness shone some light for me on Jesus’ familiar yet hard-to-entirely-understand words. Maybe this will speak to you too.
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The God of Scripture is a God who pronounces the poor blessed. The poor are people who are not self-made and are not self-sufficient. Because they are less walled in by what they possess, they are potentially more open to God. The reason Jesus warns the rich is not that he regards riches as bad per se, but rather that material prosperity easily isolates us from God. Riches of any kind represent power, and power gives us an advantage over others. It makes us independent from them. It also makes us feel independent from God. Jesus calls the poor blessed because the poor are able to listen to someone besides themselves, because they know they’ll never manage on their own.
Poverty before God makes us more receptive to God’s riches. Weakness before God makes us more receptive to his power…
Poverty in the Bible is a frame of mind, not first of all an economic condition or a question of money. Rather it’s a question of the heart.
Economic poverty, by itself, is not a virtue. After all, you can be dirt poor and yet be as greedy as the man in Jesus’ parable who tore down his barns and built bigger ones to store all his grain and his goods.
And then again, you can be a person of means and yet have the soul of a pauper.
To be poor is to be weak before God, to be open to him. God doesn’t need strong people. He prefers working through the poor in spirit; not through the poor as such, but through those whose poverty makes them receptive to him.
These poor can also be found among the rich, for there is a poverty of body as well as a poverty of soul. Each evokes God’s pity.
God loves everyone, even those who are well-off. It’s just that he has a much harder time getting through to them. (pages 17, 76)
I read God of Weakness while on vacation last month and
it inspired me to share this in today’s Rock Valley Bee and here.
I also write about the Beatitudes at the start
of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in this blog post.