We’ve started talking about the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus begins his longest recorded sermon by diving right in to descriptions of people found in that kingdom (poor in spirit, mourning, meek, merciful, etc.), which sound much more like people on this earth than those experiencing eternal bliss.
Yet, his statements of how such individuals are “blessed” appear to suggest benefits in both the temporal and eternal realms. The very word “blessed” is in some ways difficult to grasp, as there is no simple translation in English that captures its meaning. It carries far more weight than the simplistic idea of “happy.” Hopefully, looking at Jesus’ descriptions of being blessed will help us better understand the concept itself.
As we explore these statements, I hope we can look at how they apply to each of us, today and for eternity. Let’s look at the first one:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
The first thing I noticed when reading this verse was the use of present tense, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” as the rest of the statements are in the future (“they will be…”). The kingdom of heaven is now! What does it look like?
It belongs to the poor in spirit.
Imagine for a minute a poor man, a beggar, sitting in the crowd. He is used to depending on the generosity of others, but also has to actively seek out those who might have the compassion to meet his needs for the survival of himself and his family. He is not looking for superficial pleasures, just the basic necessities. And when those are given to him, he feels grateful, taking nothing for granted.
When Jesus says “poor in spirit,” it makes complete sense to him! Not only does he long for food, his soul longs for spiritual nourishment, but he had not yet found the generous Giver. Now this Rabbi, Jesus, was offering rich spiritual cuisine: wouldn’t anyone who felt hungry readily accept it with immense gratitude?
Like the poor man, we all have deep spiritual needs: forgiveness, redemption, acceptance, love, daily nourishment, and more. Yet somehow we fail to realize that the King himself is offering to meet every one of those needs. Instead, we look for satisfaction in busy schedules, productive projects, habits and addictions, wealth, relationships, comforts and other distractions. Some of these might have value in their purest form (e.g. healthy relationships), but they don’t replace the fulfillment found in Christ.
Think about yourself for a minute:
- Are you actively seeking needed spiritual nourishment?
- Do you recognize your dependence on the One who freely gives daily, satisfying all needs?
- Are you filled with joy and gratitude toward our faithful, loving God?
- Do you trust in his promise to always be there to meet your needs?
Heirs of the Kingdom
Being part of God’s kingdom means surrendering all that we have and all that we are to him; we acknowledge that by ourselves we “own” nothing. But while nothing is exclusively ours, we are children and heirs: God’s kingdom is our inheritance. Just as a child of a king has immediate access to riches owned by his father while growing up, so even on earth we can begin to receive our inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. God wants to meet our needs!
So how do we partake in his riches? There is nothing more valuable than experiencing God’s glory. Being in his Presence is how heaven is defined. God offers us “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2nd Cor. 4:6). Each time that we draw near to him we will grow closer to him, and the closer we are, the more clearly we will see him. His glory is also visible in the lives anyone who reflects his light, including our lives!
So here’s my challenge to you and to myself. Start each day by turning your face toward Christ, surrendering all that you are and have, and welcoming his gift of life and love. Ask him to guide every step during the day and trust his promise that he is the way, the truth, and the life.
Get ready to experience kingdom life!