(In 2017, I wrote this series for the 40 days prior to Easter to prepare our hearts and minds for the significance of Jesus’ resurrection. I’m reposting the series now for the 40 days after Easter to encourage us to follow through, living in the risen Savior and King.)
“That guy over there – he looks like his spirit is broken. Choose him!” You just don’t hear that coming from the team captains of a pick-up game. Yet, that’s exactly who the Lord wants on His kingdom team right now.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
People who are humble are broken, and they know it. That’s why they’ve come to the Lord. They know that they have nothing to offer God and that there’s no reason He should have anything to do with them. But they also know that they have everything to gain from His mercy and grace. They are genuinely poor within, which is entirely different from complaining about poor circumstances without. Complaining is just a different manifestation of pride. It’s a “poor, pitiful me”, waiting, expecting and eventually demanding help.
The litmus test to discern between genuine humility and actual pride is in how we respond when we’re not helped in the way or timing that we want. The poor in spirit primarily want to be close to the Master, so they gladly accept crumbs from His table. (Matthew 15:21-28). Complainers eventually attack the Master because they primarily want what’s on His table. (Malachi 3:13-15, in context)
That being said, Scripture is filled with records of God testing His people. Not because He doesn’t already know their true hearts, but because they needed to know. Such knowledge of the need for our repentance from selfishness may be a painful revelation. But by His Spirit of grace and life-changing power, it can be a loving test resulting in real and lasting joy.
So what does this have to do with receiving the Kingdom of God, as described in Matthew 5:3? Maybe it will help to recall the true story of the book “Blind Side” by Michael Lewis and the 2009 movie of the same name. It’s the story of Michael Oher, who came from a broken home and eventually became a left tackle in the NFL, helping the Baltimore Orioles win Superbowl XLVII against the San Fransisco 49ers in 2013. But the amazing power of Oher’s story is not his material rags to riches. It’s his humble heart.
Several scenes in the movie (whether all were completely accurate or not) illustrate the heart that God promotes in His kingdom: a humble servant that protects the frail, serves the needy, stands up against the enemies of the same, and lives out of allegiance and thankfulness to the One who redeemed them from their poor estate.
God’s Kingdom is not only the future of heaven, it is the present reality from heaven. The Servant King has come to forgive, change and work through broken people. (Mark 10:45) And while God’s people who are poor in heart may never be rich in pocket in this world, He will work through them, care for them and honor them to show the world the nature of His kingdom: love. And, yes, He will reward them when His Kingdom comes to full fruition for eternity.
The poor in heart cry out to their Savior and King because they love Him.
“Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on Your anointed one. Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in You.” (Psalm 84:8-12)
Look back to how I began this devotional, with the broken guy on the sideline. In Michael Oher’s case, his broken spirit (in the biblically healthy sense of the word) made all the difference, didn’t it? But who would have chosen such a person from his ghetto?
The Lord Jesus would.
He still does. And He calls all who would follow Him to extend the same love.
“God defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lordyour God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.” (Deuteronomy 10:18-22)
How can we, who are so selfish by nature, become poor in heart? Only by His gracious work in us and daily denying ourselves. And He will help those who cry out to Jesus for forgiveness and change, for He is the humble Servant King.
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my (the Apostle Paul’s) absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:5-13, emphasis mine)
Who would you want on your team? The humble in heart or something else?
More importantly, what does God want from you right now and forever?
Cry out to the Lord Jesus. He is close to the broken-hearted and will come closer still. (Psalm 34:18, 51:17 and Matthew 11:28-30)