For Theirs Is The Kingdom Of Heaven
On Monday I dealt with the first half of Matthew 5:3 - "Blessed are the poor in spirt." Today we will deal with their blessing - "For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

We all are spiritually poor. None of us have spiritual capital to buy our way into the kingdom of heaven. None of us are good enough, nor can we do enough good deeds. None of us have enough sound doctrines, nor can we develop such a sound intellectual standing. None of us are qualified, nor can we ever be. The blessing comes to those who live in that reality. It comes to those who recognize their spiritual poverty and live with humility, repentance, and remain in the grasp of grace.

This is opposite of what the world teaches us. The world stresses self-reliance. "We need to be independent. We need to be spiritual on our own. We need to take control of our spiritual destiny." Jesus turns our world's and every generation's self-reliance on its head when he said that the poor in spirit are blessed, for it's not the self-reliant but the dependent that receive the blessing. The blessing isn't given to the person we would vote most likely to suceed, but it is given to the humble, the repentant, the individual full of grace.

The exciting thing about this promise is that it is in the present tense. If you read through the beatitudes, you will see that all of the promise come with a "will be" except for this one and verse 10 (also a promise about the kingdom) which comes with an "is." The kingdom of heaven is not a blessing that we need only hope for in the future. It can start being a reality here in the present.

Just right before the beatitudes in Matthew 4:23 it states: "Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people." His actions were healing people, but his teaching was about the good news of the kingdom. I have heard people say that Jesus' death on the cross and subsequent forgiveness of sins was the good news of the kingdom. But that understanding doesn't seem to make sense with Matthew 4:23. You would have to believe that right after calling his first disciples, Jesus began teaching people about the sacrifice he would make for them to be forgiven of their sins. The problem with that is that the disciples didn't even understand that teaching when it was happening. If that was the teaching he taught throughout his ministry, then nobody understood it. The good news of the kingdom is that the kingdom was becoming a reality in those who began to live out the teachings of Jesus. The long-awaited kingdom was breaking through to this world. That was the good news.

Throughout his whole ministry, even through his death and resurrection, Jesus was in the process of changing the kingdom of God from the nation of Israel to those who believe and live as he lived, to the poor in Spirit. The messiah of the long-anticipated kingdom has come. That is great news for the audience of the time, and it is still great news for us today. But it isn't great news for everyone. It isn't good news for the unrepentant haughty, the unrepentant proud, the unrepentant stubborn, and the unrepentant self-reliant. Jesus says that only those who are poor in Spirit will receive it. That would seem like crazy talk to those expecting a physical kingdom that would overpower the rest of the world and be the return of the nation of Israel. But in giving the kingdom of Israel to the poor in Spirit, Jesus is saying two things.

First, Jesus' kingdom is not a physical kingdom in the traditional sense; it is a spiritual one. Access to the kingdom is given to those who recognize their spiritual poverty. The kingdom will begin breaking through in our physical reality by those who live in the spiritual reality and live out the teachings of the kingdom, but the kingdom isn't going to be a nation like the nations of this world.

Second, Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven, which can be theirs, isn't the same as all the other physical kingdoms of the world. It's something for the spiritually poor. A physical kingdom is ran by the wealthy and powerful. Jesus' kingdom is given to the poor.

This leads me back to the things I talked about on Monday - humility, repentance, and total dependence upon grace. These are essential elements of spiritual poverty. Humility allows us to submit to God; repentance brings us back to submitting when we stray; and grace allows us to have the strength to continue carrying on despite our weaknesses and failings. Not only are the "poor in Spirit" blessed with being able to immediately be part of the kingdom of heaven and live in that better reality, but the kingdom of heaven manifesting itself right here and right now on earth is dependent upon people being "poor in Spirit."

"Our father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."

Watch out for the potholes.