A Spiritual Revolution 1 - Blessed Are The Poor
Chan Gin Kai
Looking at his disciples, he said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.
But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:20-26)
The word “blessed” in the English language has so many religious implications today, that we often fail to understand its meaning. The ancient Greek word for “blessed” is makarios, which means “happy” and “fortunate”. So replacing the words “blessed” in the passage above with “happy” and “fortunate” gives us a better read of Jesus’ sermon.
This passage is of course still rather hard to understand, as it is a total inversion of popular belief. In ancient times, across most cultures, “blessed” was a common way of describing someone who is wealthy. This still holds true in modern society where billionaires and celebrities are celebrated as role models and material achievements are used as measures of one’s success. Sadly, even many believers of Christ directly correlate wealth, health and prosperity with spirituality. They have failed to understand what been blessed really means. Jesus’ lesson here flies in the face of conventional wisdom that ‘more is better’.
A similar sermon preached by Jesus in Matthew 5:3 sheds a little more light on this passage, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. Jesus was referring to a state of spiritual poverty, hunger and weeping. While it is often true that those who are physically poor, hungry, sad and hated are more likely to be humble than those who are distracted by their material abundance, Jesus’ sermon here is focused on the spiritual condition and not the physical one.
The Greek word for “poor” in this passage refers to extreme poverty, where one has no choice left but to beg for help.
A person in this state of extreme spiritual poverty has no illusions that he can get by without charity from others. He does not deceive himself with delusions of self-righteousness, but humbly turns to God and seeks help from anyone who is able to help him.
A person who is spiritually hungry knows that going without sustenance for too long will kill him. He will go to great lengths to find ways to feed himself and sate his hunger. A person who weeps in godly sorrow over his sins (2 Corinthians 7:10-11) will turn to God with a contrite heart, and his repentance will bring him comfort. A person who is misunderstood for his belief, hated for his convictions, and persecuted for his faith will be rewarded in heaven. These are qualities that will draw us closer to God.
This teaching is the exact opposite of what the Pharisees and other rabbis had taught and practiced. They had taken pride in their righteous actions and considered themselves worthy because of their piousness. They sought the respect and good opinion of others. These were circumstances that Jesus considered “woe”. The word “woe” here is not a threat of punishment or retribution, but an expression of regret and compassion. These people are to be pitied.
A person who is "poor in spirit" is blessed, because he recognises his dire need for God and seeks Him. This goes against most of our nature, as we are often too proud to show desperation, and too confident to realise how helpless we are without God.
Do we take pride in our spiritual “riches” and achievements? Or do we humbly and hungrily seek after God? Do we derive pleasure in the respect of people or do we seek to please Him?
Over the next few paragraphs of this chapter, we see Jesus teaching a series of lessons that is drastically different from what the Pharisees had taught, and even what many of us believe today. His lessons were a spiritual revolution.
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Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".