Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”1
The story goes that Jesus first met Simon Peter and his fishermen friends after they came back empty-handed from a full night working at the sea. Jesus told Simon to sail back out and cast his nets. Lo and behold, the nets caught fishes so full that they had to have reinforcement called in. On seeing this, Simon fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord.”2
A pig in mud is as happy as it can be, even if it is poor, because it does not care what it means to be rich nor poor. Being poor means that we know what poor and not poor (i.e. rich) means. If we do not know the definition or the definition does not apply to us, then we would not care. Being poor in spirit means that we need to know what constitutes “poor” in spirit and acknowledging or accepting that we are indeed poor.
And how are we poor in spirit?
Most of us believe that deep in our heart of hearts we are good people. Under ideal circumstances (in our favour), we think we will always do good things. But in the presence of Jesus, Simon knew immediately that he was poor in spirit.
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”3 The truth is that, despite what we believe of ourselves, we are inclined to do selfish things and prioritise material pursuit more than spiritual pursuit. Left on our own, we are spiritually and morally bankrupt sooner or later. And we are missing out on the spiritual blessings that come from a spirit-filled life.
By humbly acknowledging that we are poor spiritually, we are propelled to spiritually seek out God. Those who think of themselves rich in spirit would not seek out God. Jesus told a parable, “A certain man made a great supper, and he invited many people. He sent out his servant at supper time to tell those who were invited, ‘Come, for everything is ready now.’ They all as one began to make excuses. … Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor…’”4
God sought us so that we can seek him. “While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.”5 The first step is to acknowledge that we need Jesus and accept him. And God will grant us the Kingdom of Heaven. “But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children.”6
And do not dismiss the promise that ours are the Kingdom of Heaven as something only for the future. We are granted the Kingdom of Heaven as soon as we receive Jesus, not later. It is like getting a membership card for the Kingdom of Heaven while living our life on earth. We get certain privileges that we can use as a member. Or like getting another passport from a different country, “for our citizenship is in heaven.” The dual citizenship means that we get the privileges from both heaven and earth. The spiritual blessings for the Kingdom of Heaven are real and they are ours for the taking today.
“Nobody is perfect,” but this should not stop us from trying. Let us strive to continuously improve ourselves spiritually.