y grandfather, a pioneer preacher in the Church of God in Indiana and Tennessee, exemplified what “poor in spirit” means. Though never wealthy with this world’s goods, Grandpa and Grandma Lane understood their position in God and the necessity of becoming empty before Him.
William Barclay summarized it, “Blessed is the man who has realized his utter helplessness and who has put his whole trust in God.”
My grandparents sacrificed themselves to follow God’s call. They never lived in fancy homes, and had to call on God at times for gas for their car or food for their table. But they never complained and always expressed their gratitude to God for His provision. They understood that following Christ would require the dropping of their nets. (It seems that net-dropping to follow Christ has become a lost art!)
Self-reliance and self-dependence were not in their vocabulary. They prayed, they worked hard for their churches, and they loved people. In their humility, and through their trust and confidence in God, they saw His miraculous hand and faithfulness repeatedly. They often sacrificed their personal needs so they could pay a church electric bill or buy gas to bring people to church. They understood that everything they had belonged to God, and they were just His stewards.
I recall more than one occasion of my grandmother putting her own needs aside in order to help my dad or me as we ministered. She was poor in spirit. Because of her acknowledgment of God and His sovereignty, she saw Him remain faithful to her, even after my grandfather’s death. When she died, she was living on less than $500 per month. Yet she still gave offerings and tithes for the expansion of the Kingdom.
During the tenure of my dad’s pastorate at the Clinton Church of God, I saw an example of my mother portraying what it means to be poor in spirit. There was a family in that small town that had not been successful with employment or in quality of life. They lived in a ramshackle house and were known by everyone in town because of their lifestyle. This family started attending our church.
My mother talked with the ladies of the church about helping the mother by giving her a makeover. This was long before makeovers were popularized as reality TV shows. My mother brought this woman to our house (the church parsonage) and bathed her, purchased new clothing for her, and took her to the hair salon. When the makeover was finished, this woman did not look like the same person.
What motivated my mother to do this? She knew she owed everything to God. She recognized her dependency on Him and that, except for His grace, she could have been the one living in poverty. She was poor in spirit and she was blessed.
I have also seen this among the two dozen families living in the trash dump of Poza Rica, Mexico. Though dwelling in homes made from trash, they express their thanks to God for His provision.
I’ve seen it in the life of Elias and Teresa Herrera and their staff at Casa Hogar Alfa y Omega Orphanage in Poza Rica. Though they have no regular monthly income, they recognize their dependency on God and have seen Him come through over and over. Once when they had run out of food, Sister Teresa gathered the children together to pray that God would provide something for them to eat. Not long after that prayer, someone brought them food. What a lesson for those children on understanding this beatitude!
I’ve seen this beatitude exemplified in the students’ lives at asian Seminary of Christian Ministries in Manila, Philippines. Students from various countries make their way to the school, trusting God to provide the means for them to live and study, intending to return home to help expand God’s kingdom. Their commitment to Christ and walk by faith exceeds the faith of so many believers in the United States, where we are blessed beyond measure.
Jesus intends that we live a lifestyle of generosity. I believe that is what this beatitude teaches us. We have been given so much, and we have obtained so much stuff. The American dream has wreaked havoc in so many lives. The result is we have become self-sufficient, in need of nothing, undermining our relationship with Christ. We must focus on this beatitude again, recognizing our dependency on Him. We must reflect Him through living generously, giving all that we have and all that we are, becoming love in action.