In the season of Lent, we fast and deny ourselves for a greater purpose than mere austerity for austerity’s sake. We separate from earthly concerns to engage more deeply in the life of God’s kingdom. Finding quiet in our separation, we hear again the voice that calls us to something radically opposed to the influences that form us day in and day out. The contrast becomes clear, and we are asked to embrace a different and seemingly strange manner of living.
The world we live in equates affluence with blessing, confuses power for true strength, and substitutes position for genuine significance. Driven by the notion of the “self-made” person, we admire the strong who get their way, achieve their goals, and obtain whatever they may want. We are told, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that this can and should be our goal as well. Marketers promise a life worth living through possessions, those who finish first are celebrated while others are disregarded, the supposedly self-sufficient are crowned as “deserving” while those in need are written off as “undeserving.” Our politicians promise to make us great and to give us power, all on top off benefitting our financial and material status.
Be great. Be powerful. Be rich. Be strong. Have, possess, win and achieve. These are the voices of our world, the kingdom in which we reside. More than we realize or confess, these voices drive us, shape us, and set our priorities. An inch at a time, we are drawn in. Little by little we are changed. Soon, the voices seem normal to us, even right and good. So, we begin to live them out, justifying if not outright celebrating them.
Then we step away, and there in the solitude we hear another voice, a wonderfully different voice. We hear Jesus say, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
The poor cannot hide their need; they do not live with the illusion of being self-made or self-sufficient. Positions, titles, and power are foreign to them. The standard gauges of success do not apply, and what they possess cannot measure their value. Those who live by and have benefited from the values of this world look away in fear, not wanting to believe that such a condition could ever befall them. Yet Jesus tells us to look, for there is something revealed in this poverty that leads to true blessing.
In Jesus’ kingdom, our independence, self-sufficiency, and achievements gain us nothing. In this different kind of kingdom, it is only in the acknowledgement of our abject poverty that we find the eternal and genuine blessing for which our spirit cries out. In the confession of our brokenness, weakness, and need, we find the life that is worth living. This different voice tells us that dependence is not something to run from or fear, but admitting our absolute dependence on Someone greater brings the security and peace our fighting and grasping could never obtain. In the humble confession of our poverty and need, we find grace.
The voices of this world know nothing of grace. Its absence is evidenced by the continual drive to control, achieve, and possess. But underneath our mask of strength and self-sufficiency, we are insecure and afraid. We must hear again that different voice, the one that calls us to embrace and live by the values of another kingdom, the one that says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” As we listen, the light shines through the fake and shallow, exposing our brokenness and need for what it is, and we find the healing acceptance of grace. Here, we are no longer ashamed or fearful to confess our poverty, but humble confession becomes a freeing and hopeful way of life. The poor in spirit know that, in God’s kingdom, we are bound together not by our common strength, but by our common weakness. In that weakness, we find grace; in that weakness, we are blessed.