“Blessed are those who are Poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”
While I was praying through this verse, it hit me–if Jesus is the perfect example of humanity, and yet is also fully God, how did He live out the Beatitude that calls us to the awareness of our extreme lack in light of the treasures of Heaven?
Watching Jesus’ example throughout the gospels reveals that being poor in spirit is not merely a one-time act, but a lifestyle of dependence as a son. Though He was fully God, Jesus made it very clear,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (John 5:19).
Jesus never acted independently from the Father’s will; His gaze never once slipped from it’s grip on the image of the Father. Everything He did was from a direct reflection of the Father’s heart and intention. Jesus’ mission on earth was to reveal the Father God and the truth about His love, His mercy, His commands, His righteousness. He preferred the Father’s leadership above all things.
It is the heart’s cry of the Lord’s prayer,
“Our Father, who is in Heaven,
Hallowed by your name,
Your Kingdom come,
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in Heaven” (Matthew 6:9-10).
In acknowledging the Father God, our praise becomes a petition that the Father would be glorified through His kingdom coming to earth. In other words, that we would recognize our lack to allow room for His truth to be established on earth–“…for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
As the second phrase of the beatitude implies, willing, sacrificial, and revelatory impoverishment of self is not just a matter of denial and emptying–it is in fact, an active dependence that results in the fullness of the kingdom. If the only begotten son depended upon love of Father, how much more do I need to?!
“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
When I visited Kansas City in December, our host, who was originally from the Northwest said he hadn’t realized just how sun-deprived we were up here until he moved to the Midwest. Poverty of Spirit is the same realization–we are so love-deprived. It is understanding how bereft we are of the lavish love of the Father, how desperately we need it, and how poor we are in our concept of what we need in relation to His great desire to lavish it on us. Oh Lord, we need to abide in your love, and ask for it, and agree with it.
If Jesus is our example, His style of dependence looked just like this–constant communion with the Father.
“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in my love” (vs. 9).
In gazing upon Jesus, we come to see that, not only is being poor in spirit expressed in the initial burst of revelation regarding our position before God, it is also in the daily preferment of the resources of His love. It makes me marvel that, of all the things we are commanded, living in the constant flow of God’s love is one of them, and is probably one of the most important prerequisites for every other aspect of life. In fact, we can do no other commandment to its fullest without it. And to think, being poor in spirit is wrapped up in it. The commandment to abide in love ends up being expressed in three primary ways:
- Receiving nourishment alone from the vine.
- Being pruned.
- Producing Fruit.
The branch that abides in the vine is a recipient solely of the vine’s nourishment and provision, which is love. It is our entrance into Christianity and our constant reality–no other opinion about our person and purpose can matter but the one which is given by our Father. It is loving God with all of our soul: defining success in life as loving God and being loved by Him. The branch separated from this inflow of life is a dead branch. It is impoverished apart from the riches that are freely and generously supplied by the vine it is connected to.
We speak longingly of abiding in the love of God, but must also remember that part and parcel of living in the vine is submitting to pruning (vs. 2). Once again, we find ourselves in a place of willing surrender. In the same way that pruning bereaves the branch of old growth to provoke fruitfulness, becoming poor of spirit empties us to receive the riches of Heaven–His unfathomable love–and fully produce the fruit of the Kingdom.
Inevitably throughout this process we bear the fruit of the kingdom of Heaven, which leads us back to the starting place of how Jesus lived His life–in constant pursuit of glorifying the Father.
“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples” (vs. 8).
This is how Jesus lived, completely attached to the love of the Father, undergoing the ultimate pruning–death on a cross, preferring the Father’s will and His kingdom, that the ultimate fruit would come forth–the total redemption of all Humanity.
We are now invited to live in this same dramatic unity and dependent flow of love. What an incredible gift.