Written by Alyssa Esparaz

Blessed are the poor in spirit 

What we can learn when our privilege is confronted by poverty? 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
This opening line of the Beatitudes—and of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—can be really confusing.  

Why would Jesus want us to be poor in anything? Especially in spirit? What does that even mean? 

So many questions. Yet, I think we can find answers in the places we least expect.  

I once sat in on a girls’ small group in the Philippines during their prayer time. Much like my own small group in Toronto, they went around the circle sharing their prayer requests. One girl asked us to pray that she’d be able to pay school fees. Another wanted prayer for her younger sister to do well in school, because this girl had given up her tuition money to pay her sister’s. 

Their prayer requests were so different from my own about exams or decisions about university. These girls simply wanted the opportunity to be in school in the first place. It was a reliance on God that I had never seen nor experienced before—because of my privilege, I had never needed to. 

Through this experience, I began to understand: Poor in spirit means a posture of full reliance on God, regardless of your circumstances. It’s a disposition in your spirit that says, “Everything I have comes to me by the grace of God, and all I have I will steward for His kingdom.” 

It means that when we who have much materially meet with those who have less, our privilege—which so often distracts us from the Kingdom—can be put toward Kingdom purposes instead.  

It means that together we can be freed from both poverty and privilege, as we experience the richness of the Kingdom and the abundance of life with Jesus—together.  

When our privilege is confronted by poverty, we can begin to have a Kingdom perspective.  

In the Beatitudes, Jesus invites us to confront the brokenness of the world head-on. He calls His followers to live differently, to buck against the pressure to climb ladders and accrue wealth and comfort that insulates us from the brokenness around us. He asks us to ask the tough questions, to experience the brokenness, to live radically and sacrificially. And He promises that in these things we will experience the Kingdom of heaven. 

In light of this, we can better understand some of the other Beatitudes. Blessed are those who mourn. Those who hunger and thirst. The persecuted.  

Those places where we feel like we have nothing left—the most broken places in our world, our communities, our own lives—are the places where Jesus desires to meet us, to comfort us, to fill us, to show us the Kingdom. 

At the beginning of His most famous sermon, Jesus declares that in Him, everything that is broken can be restored when we partner with Him. And that is a beautiful promise. 

Learn more about what the Bible says about poverty through Compassions free resources for individuals and groups of all ages: www.compassion.ca/resources. 

One way to confront your privilege with poverty is by becoming a Compassion sponsor: www.compassion.ca/sponsor-a-child.