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a voice crying out in the postmodern wilderness

Choose To Be Poor in Spirit (Don't End Up With The Pigs)

Choose To Be Poor in Spirit (Don't End Up With The Pigs)

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
— Matthew 5:3

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, there are two sons. One finagles his inheritance early, and spends it in debauchery. The other son, meanwhile, remains at home serving his father's estate. Now the one who squandered his inheritance ends up homeless and dirt poor. He starts to be jealous of the pigs eating slop out of a trough.

Well, you probably know the story, but in case you don't - the rebellious son comes home. And instead of the father giving him a stern talking to, he embraces him and celebrates him with a feast.

The other (older) brother ain't happy.

The other brother has done it right. He has served his father and obeyed him. He has hung around and looked after his family's estate. But he doesn't get it. He doesn't understand that he's been extraordinarily blessed for many years to live in his father's house, and that serving is not a means to an end (high status, blessing, etc.), but is rather an end itself. He has served proudly and thus he has inflated his own sense of self worth.

Not so with the brother who ends up with the pigs. He has made all the wrong choices. He got his father to liquidate assets so he could spend them on the equivalent of cocaine and hookers. He has made some really dumb choices, and no one would dispute that. But, by God's grace, the rebellious brother ends up in the proper spiritual disposition: poverty in spirit.

He knows he's messed up. His clothes are torn and he's hungry. He has no shoes. His head pounds from the journey of trying to get home, likely with little water and the sun beating down on him. There is no room for pride, and that means he is now able to receive the blessing of the father with thanksgiving.

Being Poor in Spirit

To be poor in spirit is not to be downtrodden or sad. To be poor in spirit is to understand that we too have squandered our inheritance. We too embarrass the family name by our actions and inactions, by our recklessness and by our passivity. We do what is wrong and fail to do what's right. More than that, though, we have sought to gain glory for ourselves and thus we have dishonored our Father in heaven.

But we should not be ashamed. We should not hang our heads in shame, but rather lift our heads in eager expectation. There is nothing - and I mean absolutely nothing - that can separate God's children from him. Once we are his, we are his. That is the greatest news ever, sealed in blood.

You have not gone too far. You have not blown it. 

Choosing Poverty

Sometimes God is so gracious as to let us eat beside the pigs. Sometimes we need to hit rock bottom so we can see our need for God and start to appreciate that which he has already given us. 

Not always, though.

The older brother wasn't doing anything wrong. In fact, he was being a godly son. He honored his father and served him. It was his heart that was the problem. He served to get. He honored to be honored. And as he did right, he became proud.

The older brother could have chosen a different path, and that path would be thankfulness. If he had realized he deserved nothing and yet was already given everything, he too would have thrown the best robe on his little brother and welcomed him home. But because he allowed himself to become proud, he fumed with jealousy.

Stop Obsessing Over Your Station in Life

We are by nature climbers. We want to improve our station in life, be it our social standing or wealth or appearance. We humans are builders, and we are ever on the quest to improve and do more. That is not bad, per se. God put Adam and Eve to work on a similar mission, but there is a subtle yet earth-shattering difference in mindset which separates the godly and the godless.

It's God's glory or yours.

If we choose to honor and glorify God, we will gladly accept the fact that we are not that special. We aren't celebrities, and we will be dead relatively soon and soon after that largely forgotten. 

Our smallness is wonderful. You see, we aren't designed to shine like the stars, but rather show other people how bright the stars are. It is a happy person who can simply be, knowing God loves him and cares for him and has placed his ring on his finger. Humility and happiness are inseparable. Pride's sidekick is dissatisfaction and his cousin, angst. 

Are you the older brother or the younger brother? Some of us have been both at one time or another. In either case, the call is simple: submit, believe, and exhale. Let God take care of you. Appreciate when you sit at his table. Remember his salvation in Christ.

You see, as a Christ follower we are already wearing the gold ring and the best robe and the expensive sandals. We just need to open our eyes.

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