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I often struggle with understanding the Beatitudes, but most often with the first one: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 5:3).  Mostly because I don’t know what it means.

Or didn’t.  I think I might be getting a grasp on it…well, like its a greasy watermelon floating in a lake.

First, I need to understand what it means to be poor.  The poor rely on the kindness of others, the compassion of strangers, for their well-being.  The poor beg for handouts.  The poor live where they can, sometimes they are homeless.  To be poor means you are not self-sufficient.  It can be a very humbling experience.

As dictionary.com puts it:


having little or no money, goods, or other means of support:

a poor family living on welfare.

Law. dependent upon charity or public support.

(of a country, institution, etc.) meagerly supplied or endowed with resources or funds.

characterized by or showing poverty.

deficient or lacking in something specified:

a region poor in mineral deposits.

faulty or inferior, as in construction:

poor workmanship.

deficient in desirable ingredients, qualities, or the like:

poor soil.

excessively lean or emaciated, as cattle.

of an inferior, inadequate, or unsatisfactory kind:

poor health.

lacking in skill, ability, or training:

a poor cook.

deficient in moral excellence; cowardly, abject, or mean.

scanty, meager, or paltry in amount or number:

a poor audience.

humble; modest:

They shared their poor meal with a stranger.

unfortunate; hapless:

The poor dog was limping.

(used with a plural verb) poor persons collectively (usually preceded by the):
sympathy for the poor.

To be poor in spirit, I think, means to be like the poor in spiritual matters.  Not just humble in all things.  Though that is good.  To be poor in spirit, we must rely on God for everything.

And yet, even when God blesses me abundantly, I find myself more like the Israelites in the desert.  “Thank you Lord for the manna, but what I really want is meat.” (Numbers 11: 1-15)  I’m certain many of us remember how that turned out.  Not well.  (Numbers 11: 31-35)

If I rely on myself for things, then I do not rely on God and I am not poor in spirit.  A difficult concept to grasp let alone practice.  But one, the Lord tells us, we should strive toward if we want the kingdom of God to belong to us.

If what we receive isn’t from God, will it make us truly happy?  Not just happy in the moment, but content?