Peggy Horton: Blessed are the poor in spirit
In the greatest sermon ever preached, The Sermon on the Mount, which begins with The Beatitudes, God reveals His definition of happiness. We believe this because the word "blessed," as used by Jesus, is interchangeable with the word "happy."
But, unfortunately, the word "blessed" has been altered by today's society. If things are going well, the bills are paid, the health is reasonably good, and there are no conflicts at home, one might feel that he is blessed. And indeed he is! But only a child of God knows what it means to be truly blessed. The nonbeliever has no idea what a real blessing is because the biblical definition of blessedness, or happiness, is much different than that of our culture.
Today's beatitudes might sound something like this:
• Blessed are the beautiful, for they shall be admired.
• Blessed are the wealthy, for they shall have everything they want.
• Blessed are the popular, for they shall be well-liked.
• Blessed are the famous, for they shall be followed on Facebook.
But The Beatitudes, as we know them, are found in Matthew 5:3-12.
• Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
• Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
• Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
• Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
• Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
• Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
• Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
• Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Profound in meaning, the Beatitudes guide, teach and show us the values that Christ cares about. These values, if followed, will not only bring a believer into a state of peace and happiness, but also right into the Kingdom of God after his or her journey on this earth is finished.
Jesus began His Beatitudes with: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Some have mistakenly interpreted this verse to say, "Blessed are the poor." But that's not what Jesus said. The word "poor" that Jesus used is speaking of a person who is destitute and completely dependent upon others for help -- but not financially. It has nothing to do with your bank account. Jesus was speaking of those who see themselves as they really are before God: lost, hopeless and helpless.
Apart from Jesus Christ, everyone is poor in spirit, regardless of his education, wealth or accomplishments. Poor in spirit means that we come to God, conscious of our sins and our utter lack of righteousness. It means that we have absolutely no hope of salvation without Jesus Christ. It means that we realize we are full of sin and in desperate need of God's grace. And the poor in spirit realize that these can only be obtained by absolute faith in Jesus Christ.
If you want to be happy, you have to see yourself as you actually are. You have to repent. And you have to desire to change your life.
As Henry Ward Beecher said, "The strength and the happiness of a man is based on finding out which way God is going, and going that way, too." Horton is a writer who lives in Nitro.