Sunday, October 19, 2008

Blessed are the poor in spirit

I've been thinking about the phrase "poor in spirit" this week, trying to figure out more clearly what exactly that means. The footnotes in my Bible say "pride, humility" so I've been working on clarifying the former and then taking its opposite to try to define poor in spirit a little better.

Here's what I found:

Deut. 8: 8-11 Pride is thinking you got where you are due to your own power and skills. This is one result of neglecting to keep and remember God's commandments. So the opposite (poor in spirit) could be said to be realizing and acknowledging that you got where you are by the grace of God and remembering and keeping his commandments with gratitude for that grace.

Philippians 4:11-13 Pride is discontentment with the current state; ie. focused on what you don't have or where you are not. Poor in spirit would then be being able to be content in whatever state you find yourself, focused more on responding well to the current situation instead of on what you do or do not have.

Psalm 62:10 Pride is, when riches increase, you set your heart on them. Being poor in spirit would be not setting your heart on riches when they come.

Psalm 10:2-4 Pride means you tend to persecute the poor and lay traps for others, boasting about what you love or want and admiring others who have those things. Pride will not seek after God, assuming that you can handle whatever comes on your own. Poor in spirit, on the other hand, means that you have compassion on the poor and do not take advantage of others. You are not a "respecter of persons". You realize that your ability to weather adversity is not just your doing but that you depend on the Lord to be able to do so.

Isaiah 65: 1-5 Pride means you are full of your own thoughts, upscaling worship and not keeping the commandments that are out of fashion. You are elitist and unwilling to mingle with people you see as "less holy". Poor in spirit means that you are interested in God's will and doing things they way he has outlined. You are not stand-offish.

I ran across a piece written by Curtis DeGraw who wrote about being raised in an economically poor family but not recognizing that he was poor until he hit high school and became aware of all the things other kids had that he didn't have and could not purchase. He wrote:

Spiritual poverty is the lack of ability to acquire spiritual things. It implies an awareness of things desired that are beyond one's ability to have or do - since recognition of poverty is a real part of the effects of poverty. It also means that if there are spiritual things that truly are necessary but out of one's spiritual price range, one must rely on another person to provide them.

I am intrigued by the notion that, until you recognize you are lacking spiritual growth and need a Savior to provide that, you will remain spiritually poor. You may be humble and good, but not "spiritually rich". That makes the addition of the phrase "who come unto me" found in the 3rd Nephi version of the beatitudes suddenly make more logical sense. Being poor in spirit, using DeGraw's analogy, may simply be the opposite of being proud (and that is a good thing) but when it is coupled with a realization that the only way to make your humility holy or spiritually rich is through the redemption of Christ and his grace and you act accordingly, then it leads to the blessing of being a part of the kingdom of heaven. That's why "coming unto him" brings that attendant blessedness.

Still mulling, but that's what I've been thinking about this week.

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