Who are the poor in spirit? Who are the meek?

From the #140characters response cards:

  • "What does 'poor in spirit' really mean? Does it actually = meek?"
  • "What is the meaning of 'meek,' and how does one be meek in this time?"
  • "Pastor Diane-- what are the meanings of 'poor in spirit'? Does this mean the depressed? 'Blessed'-- what does this mean, imply, explain, signify?"

My not-so-secret social justice self prefers Luke's version of Jesus' teaching: "Blessed are you who are poor" (Luke 6:20). Blessed are the poor. Full stop. Jesus goes on to say, "Woe to you who are rich" (Luke 6:24). This teaching is clear, even if it makes us uncomfortable. Jesus blesses people without financial resources. We can even claim that Jesus has a "preferential option for the poor" --- that God cannot be impartial because the justice of God demands taking the side of the oppressed against their oppressors.

Matthew's gospel softens the radical economics of Luke/Acts. Rather than financial poverty, Matthew emphasizes spiritual poverty: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5, NRSV). So what is this spiritual poverty? Other translations of "poor in spirit" include "humble" (CEB), "meek" (KJV), "free of pride" (NIRV), "gentle" (NASB), and "kind-hearted, sweet-spirited, self-controlled" (AMP). The Message paraphrase offers, “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought" (MSG).

My modern twist would be: "Blessed are those who check their privilege. Blessed are those who have no privilege to check." 

To be poor in spirit is to be humble in your humanity and confident in your Creator. Acknowledge the pride and privilege that separate you from others. Confess, repent, and work to lift up others. But don't allow a false sense of "unworthiness" to separate you from the God who created you, called you "good," and is bringing you into the New Creation. 

Humility does not mean abasing or debasing yourself. Humility (from "humus," earth) is being fully grounded in who you are and whose you are. We're children of God, made from dirt and yet made in God's image.

When we're meek, we see ourselves as God sees us --- no more, no less. We acknowledge our sin and give thanks for the grace that doesn't leave us there. To be poor in spirit is to walk through the world acknowledging the reality that we're simultaneously sinner and saint -- and that everyone else is, too.We begin to see all people with the radiant light of God. We're equal under the cross. In the words of Joe Biden's father, "No one’s better than you, but you're better than nobody." 

So know who you are. Root yourself in God's love. And encourage everyone else to discover and declare their own worthiness. Those of the earth are blessed to inherit the earth.