“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
What does poverty look like? What does it mean to be poor? Who are the poor among us?
In the United States poverty seems distant and foreign. We think of poverty as being someone who lives out on the street in a cardboard box, in a tent city, or a third world country. Some other faceless, nameless people, other than ourselves or those among us. We do not think of the poor living in our families or communities or churches. In the United States, it seems as if poverty is something that happens to other people, but not us. And certainly not someone we know. Do we even know what poverty looks like?
Do we even recognize the poor living among us? Living in ourselves?
Consider the word poor used in Matthew 5:3. In the Greek language the word poor is ptōchos, which means “a person of few resources,” or someone who realizes “they have nothing to offer God but are in need of His free gifts.” Being poor or poor in spirit simply means that we have limited access to resources or feel as if we have nothing of value to offer God.
Do you ever feel like you have nothing to offer God or others?
I once heard of a group of missionaries who traveled to a third world country to help the poor by providing access to clean drinking water. They partnered with a local church within that community. When they arrived, the locals of that community broke out into song for them as a welcome. Unplanned and unscripted. They had nothing, yet they offered everything that they had. It made no difference if they could sing or not. They had voices that could be heard and they offered them. They offered what little they had to worship God and welcome others.
When their song ended they fully anticipated that the missionaries would join them in singing and making a joyful noise. And yet the missions team, the missionaries could not. They did not know the song. They did not have a melody of their own. They were not prepared.
The US missionaries had an abundance of resources, they had voices every bit as much as the local community living in poverty, and yet they felt as if they had nothing to offer. The US missionaries, who had an abundance of resources, in that moment, had nothing to offer.
Who do you think were the poor ones? Which of these two groups was poor?
Both. Both groups were poor. Those who faced physical poverty and those who faced spiritual poverty. The poor who lacked clean drinking water, were the obvious poor. Yet, they held nothing back. They gave of everything they had. They were rich in spirit. The missionaries who had an abundance of resources, could not even offer what they had in that moment, because they were poor in spirit. They had everything and yet they felt as if they had nothing to offer.
Do you ever feel like that? Do you ever feel like you have nothing to offer? Do you ever feel like your resources are limited? This my dear friends, is what poverty looks like. Feeling like you have no resources and nothing to offer.
If we want to be people who actually help the poor, we must not forget the poverty that lives within ourselves. We must not forget that poverty is not a faceless, nameless, other person or country. We must not see poverty as being someone or something to look down upon. Those who are physically poor can help those who are spiritually poor by showing them how to offer whatever they have. Those who are spiritually poor can help those who are physically poor by offering out of their abundance of resources.
Poverty is not something that happens to someone else. Poverty is something that happens within all us.
In the US we use words like “blessed” to describe the possessions, wealth, health, and relationships that we have. But these things are not blessings. Blessings come to the poor, not the wealthy. Blessed are those who are poor.
Blessed are those who do not have wealth of possessions.
Blessed are those who do not have access to healthcare resources.
Blessed are those who do not have an abundance of relationships.
Blessed are those who feel as if they have nothing to offer.
When we have nothing left to offer God. When our own resources are tapped out or non-existent, that is when we are truly blessed. The blessing that lives among the poor is that there is nothing left to do, to offer, but humility before God. There is nothing left to do but put our trust in God.
Those things which we do not consider blessings at all, are the true blessings. It is when we have nothing left to offer, when we have none of our own resources left, that we have nothing to do but to turn back to God, the One who has unlimited resources. We have nothing left to do but depend on God, trust Him for everything and offer what little or nothing we feel like we have.
What sort of poverty are you facing today? I want you to know that we have a Savior, Jesus Christ, who was also poor, but filled with the power of God. Filled with the power of the kingdom of God. A kingdom which is not tangible. That is the blessing of the poor. Blessed, blessed are those of us who are poor.
“There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” Proverbs 13:7
 Edward W. Goodrick and John R. Kohlenberger, The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2004), 1588.