“Why?” you ask. “What happened?” You know she’s been struggling financially, as well as with some serious family problems. You wonder if she’s won the lottery, or received some other out-of-the-ordinary help.
“Because I’m hopeless! I have no answers for any of my problems!” she responds enthusiastically.
Do you drop the phone? Suggest your friend might be feverish? Call for the men in white coats?
As crazy as it sounds, our imaginary friend may have a thoroughly Biblical perspective on her situation.
Last week, I invited you to join me on a “blessed quest”—a search for understanding of what it means to walk in God’s blessings. I figured we’d start our quest with the words in red—what Jesus said about being blessed.
Most of what Jesus says about what it means to be blessed is contained in Matthew 5, in a 10-verse long section of the Sermon on the Mount called the Beatitudes, which means—drumroll please—the Blessings!
The Beatitudes are one of those parts of Scripture that many of us think we know, so I thought I’d check them out in a newer, less familiar translation. See how the Common English Bible translates the first of Jesus’s list of blessings, from Matthew 5:3:
“Happy are people who are hopeless, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”
In case you don’t recognize this verse, the NIV translates Matthew 5:3 this way:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
I’d read the NIV version before, but hadn’t thought much about what it means to be poor in spirit. I wondered: does it really mean “hopeless?”
When you look at the Greek text, “poor in spirit” is a pretty literal translation. One who is poor in spirit is one whose spirit is in absolute poverty—a beggar in spirit. It is one who has to plead for help from others because they have no resource on their own. In other words, one who is hopeless.
(So the scholars who translated the CEB version knew what they were talking about—imagine that. I’m sure they’re relieved to know I think so :)!)
But that still doesn’t help me understand what Jesus meant. How can being poor in spirit—hopeless—possibly be a blessing?
What do you think? (I’d seriously like to know!)
As I pondered what Jesus might have meant, an analogy came to mind:
We have one of those minivans that allows you remove and replace the seats with the push of one little lever. It’s totally easy IF you have the seat in the right position.
For some reason, it took me a long time to figure out what that position was. So I would wrestle for a ridiculous amount of time trying to get the seats out or put them back in. Often my son Morgan (who knew how to work the seats) would find me hunched over the seat, sweating and cranky.
There’s only room in the doorway for one person to mess with the seats, so Morgan would stand back and watch me struggle until I gave up and asked for help. Then he would step up to the car, position the seat properly, and Voila! It worked like magic.
As soon as I conceded my inability to fix the seat and moved, Morgan was able to solve the problem. But in my stubbornness, I wouldn’t get out of the way—until I had to admit I was totally hopeless.
Could it be that when we try to live life on our own we are actually blocking the blessings of God? Could it be that, when we hold stubbornly to the belief that we can handle challenges by ourselves, we are actually getting in God’s way?
Perhaps it’s only when we get to the end of our own ropes—when we are hopeless/poor in spirit—that we able to allow the grace and power of God to work in our lives.
Perhaps, as we admit our helplessness we open the door for God to rule in our lives, thus receiving the promised blessing, the kingdom of heaven.
Can you think of times in your life when, only as you gave up you were empowered, only as you lost hope, you found God’s provision?
Then, my friend, you have been poor in spirit, the kingdom of heaven is yours, and Jesus calls you blessed.
Will you call someone and tell them?
I would love to hear your thoughts about what it means to walk in God’s blessings. Please post your comments here or on the Women at the Well Facebook page: www.facebook.com/WomenAtTheWellbsumc.