Monday, August 10, 2009


Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.3 NRSV)

What an opening line! And the reward is present tense! I always say this one liner is the beginning of Jesus’ inaugural address: “Congratulations to the poor in spirit.” It is a key to everything Jesus will teach and live. Your opening line often contains your main point or leads to your main point. I wonder if most Christians have seen a simple, humble spirit as absolutely central to Jesus’ teaching?

To be “poor in spirit” means to live without a need for your own rightness, or any sense of moral superiority to anyone else. It’s a free inner emptiness, with no outer need for advancing your own reputation or any opinionated one-upmanship. If you’re actually poor in spirit it won’t be long before you’re poor in other ways too. You won’t waste the rest of your life trying to get rich because you’ll know better on the inside. Inner poverty precedes and lays the foundation for a simple, non-consuming lifestyle.

Richard Rohr, adapted from Jesus’ Plan for the New World, p.130

I’m not sure about Rohr’s use of “congratulations” to translate makarios—blessed seems about right to me, better too than the “happy” in many translations. This word blessing here includes, implies, makes possible the freedom, the living in God’s hand, that allows real simplicity to develop in the un-grasping heart, the heart set free at last to love.

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