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Oh to be poor in spirit!
- Jacob Ninan
Jesus said that His kingdom belonged to the poor in spirit (Mt.5:3). The more we become poor in spirit the more we can fit into His kingdom. But unfortunately this attitude is being removed out of many Christians' minds by the modern trend of confessing we are strong! Admission of need or weakness is considered to be a sign of lack of faith. People are taught to proclaim they are strong and in need of nothing whenever they sense some need in their lives. The apostle Paul who knew both weakness and strength was able to distinctly understand that while he was weak in himself he was at the same time able to draw on Christ's strength (2Co.12:10). He was honest enough to recognise and admit that he had many weaknesses, and then he was able to receive strength from Christ, unlike many now who profess strength in Christ without acknowledging their own weaknesses. He knew within himself that it was only through Christ that he was able to do all things (Php.4:13), and that without Christ he was nothing.
When we are poor in spirit we know that we know only a little and then we are willing to learn. We know we are making many mistakes every day (Jas.3:2), and we are therefore willing to learn and change. We are willing to listen to others who may teach us many things. We recognise the possibility that some things we believe and practise need to be changed. We cannot look down on anyone because what we are and how we exist are only by the grace of God.
It is one of the paradoxes of Christian life that when we recognise we are weak we experience the strength of Christ. This means that we are not grovelling in the dust bemoaning the fact that we are weak and nothing, but we are walking about boldly and confidently doing the will of God. We don't attack or retaliate, but we are not going to be doormats letting others walk over us. If some Christians are taking one extreme position of 'denying' all weaknesses and acting as if they are only strong, some other Christians are passively taking things as they come and letting others do whatever they like to them.
When Jesus told us to 'turn the other cheek', He was trying to teach us that sometimes in the process of loving our enemies we might have to face evil and suffer from it unjustly (Mt.5:39,44). But He did not mean this to be taken as a commandment to be obeyed literally, because He Himself did not turn the other cheek when He was slapped (Jn.18:22,23). He conducted Himself before His enemies with such dignity and confidence that they were afraid of Him!
But having said this I think that the current trend among Christians is more towards 'positive' thinking--putting away all negative thoughts (such as admitting our needs or weaknesses!), telling ourselves we are strong (not so much about 'in Christ'!), and making us believe that we are indeed strong!. This kind of 'self-esteem' in the absence of poverty of spirit takes us away from the kingdom of God! Oh to be truly poor in spirit!