“Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
Certainly, anyone who has faith in God as I know Him to be would prefer a heavenly kingdom over the kingdom of man. And yet I often defer to humanity’s kingdom because, even though this is ridiculous to say, it sometimes sounds safer than God’s kingdom—which is not quite so tangible. My money, my health insurance, my access to medicines and food and entertainment—the accessibility to these provisions make for a comfortable life.
So how am I supposed to be poor in spirit and not give away all of my earthly possessions and wander the streets with my children depending only on God and his ability to bring me what I need? I guess because poor in spirit is not just about our circumstantial blessings, though our circumstantial blessings can certainly blind us to the condition of our innermost hearts. Poor in spirit is about our heart-state.
Pondering this during the week, I had a revelation: perhaps poor in spirit, if defined as a form of meekness or humility, works hand in hand with a thankful heart. Are thankfulness and poverty of spirit two sides of the same coin? Is it possible to be truly thankful for something and at the same time feel haughty, proud, or “better than”? Fake gratefulness can surely coexist with these ideals, but what about genuine, heartfelt thankfulness. Have you ever experienced it?
Are thankfulness and poverty of spirit two sides of the same coin?
I made cookies with my kids this week. As cooking is not my “thing,” baking projects are always a fun treat. And as I make my children eat healthy most of the time, dessert treats are a big deal. They know that I am the gatekeeper of the sweets, and that letting them have a snack of multiple cookies with milk is quite a variation from the norm. After the cookie-baking and eating, my son came up and hugged me from behind. I looked at him, surprised. “Thanks, Mom, for making cookies.” He was looking up at me with genuinely joyful eyes, so grateful for the fun treat. He wasn’t able to make and eat so many cookies apart from my help and my permission. He depended on me for that little joy, and when he experienced it, his heart was full of deep, real thankfulness.
I get that I’m talking about chocolate chip cookies and that this seems way off track from being poor in spirit. But this moment with my son caused me to take pause and consider: how often do I admit, by my genuine thankfulness, that God alone can provide everything I need, and sometimes things I simply want? Am I so good at providing for my own needs by myself that I don’t think I need him, or do I offer him half-hearted thanks for things that I think I could do on my own?
Being thankful isn’t just about saying, “Thank you!” It is a heart-response, recognizing that someone has offered you something that you could not or would not or did not provide for yourself, and you are deeply grateful for their kindness. It is realizing that you had need or want, and someone else supplied it. It is esteeming the gift-giver or the servant above yourself. There is a humility to true thanksgiving. Being poor in spirit will open my eyes to see the reality of my need and the generosity and goodness of my Father.
Perhaps, if I want to inherit the kingdom of heaven, I could begin by being thankful.
“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 5:16-18