ou have been granted a boon, a great wonder. You have been offered citizenship in the kingdom of God. You may become the subject of an ancient, grand, and wise Sovereign who decrees peace and joy throughout His realm.
There is more.
You may be adopted into His family. Your destiny is to be a prince (a princess), royalty in the kingdom of God. He will be your instructor, showing you the wisdom of His ways. You are to carry great responsibility with great skill. When your work is done, you will retire in splendor and live happily ever after.
To receive this great boon, there are some things you need to understand. The concepts you need have been carefully and succinctly outlined in a section of the Bible (Matthew 5-7) called the Sermon on the Mount. Here we find Jesus, the master teacher, generously handing out the keys of the kingdom to His devoted pupils.
This discussion looks at the first three sentences of Jesus’ talk. You are free to join the disciples and receive the keys. However, be warned. These are very demanding keys. Those who use them are changed by them. If you decide to take the risk, let’s sit down on the grass with Jesus’ followers as He begins.
First Key: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”*
We thrive on competence. We train in it, encourage it, expect it, demand it, advertise it, choose it, cultivate it. We think positive thoughts about it and about ourselves. We teach our children to be optimistic and persevering. The sky is the limit. Anything is possible. Break through the barrier. Set a new standard. You can be anything you want to be! Don’t ever say, “I can’t.”
But here is the first key. You must speak the forbidden words.
In this jarring opening statement, spoken as a blessing, Jesus discards all our cultural orthodoxy. In a world that respects the tough-minded and in-charge, He has a message: If you are king, then God is not; and if you want the kingdom of heaven, you must abdicate to the King of heaven.
Now, no one would choose to do such a thing without a compelling reason. The reason is in the forbidden words I can’t.
“I can’t” is not a command. It’s a discovery. It’s a discovery forbidden by our parents and our culture. They say, “Yes, you can learn to tie your shoes. Don’t ever say, ‘I can’t.’ You may say, ‘I’ll try; please help me.’” And we go on through life with this mind-set, not knowing there are some things to which this wisdom does not apply. Finally we find our life experience wringing the words out of us like the last drops of rinse water from a mop. The words leak out under great pressure. I can’t love people. I can’t love God. I can’t receive love and find my heart satisfied with it.
Listen to the most famous “I can’t” in the Bible, taken from Romans 7:15-18: “I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can’t help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things. . . . No matter which way I turn, I can’t do right. I want to, but I can’t” (NLT).
It’s no small matter to give up the illusion of being in control. The smallest step out of denial is met by friends, family, and self-help pundits, all committed to pump up your flagging self-esteem. It’s no small matter to abdicate the throne of your life.
One thing finally brings us to honesty: pain. It is pain that wrings out the truth: I can’t. “Oh, what a miserable person I am!” (verse 24, NLT). “Poor in spirit” does not happen until you’ve painfully arrived at the end of your answers. “Poor in spirit” is a deep-down recognition of inner need: I’m living in poverty. I don’t have enough of the vitality—of the wind of God that brings life, refreshment, and strength.
Becoming poor in spirit is an awakening. It’s an enlightenment. The poor in spirit are those who have so fully come to their senses that they freely and eagerly choose God as their king. As soon as the choice for God is made, God is there to freely and eagerly bless His new subjects. The one who has discovered the truth—that without Jesus I can’t do anything (see John 15:5)—soon discovers what Paul did: “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13). It’s a good day when the real King takes charge. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven.”
Second Key: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
It’s no surprise that these are Jesus’ next words. The awakening that brings an awareness of our need also brings a great sense of loss. We see that we have attempted to live life without any interference from anyone and without any need for anyone. It soon becomes clear that this struggle was taking us in the wrong direction. In this awakening, the illusion of personal goodness, personal independence, and personal competence dies. The loss of this false identity, the death of this independent self, feels as real as any loss. It is grieved as if it were the loss of life itself.
The experience does not end with grief. At the end of the grief and letting go there is a sense of peace. There is freedom to receive the comfort of God. The one who has completed these steps is no longer stuck in denial. The awareness of spiritual poverty has been accepted. It no longer brings torment. There is a new reality, a reality described in the blessing of Jesus that immediately follows.
Third Key: “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”
Meekness is one of the most misunderstood of all virtues. Jesus responded with silence during His trial, and His behavior was astonishing to all who looked on. On the surface meek people may look weak, submissive to the extreme, easily imposed on, spineless. But underneath that gentle patience is a spiritual authority that can change the world.
The meek person has grieved the sense of loss that comes with spiritual poverty. The grieving was finished by receiving the comfort of God. This comfort included a strong sense of identity. The meek person has heard God whisper, “You are My child.” This strong sense of identity is the key to the mystery of meekness. The meek person has no need to prove anything to anyone. His or her identity as a child of God is already established beyond question.
Does the meek person have boundaries? Yes. But the boundaries have gone from the outside to the inside. The meek person, like Jesus, is free to turn the other cheek. This is because nothing that is done on the outside can threaten the inner awareness of being a blessed child of God. When the inner sense of blessing is there no matter what, it doesn’t matter so much what happens on the outside.
There is more. The meek person is free, no longer driven by personal agendas. And because they’re no longer driven by inner, unmet needs, there is freedom to align with the purposes of God.
Jesus stood before Pilate with no inner drive to establish His identity or even maintain His dignity. Because of this freedom He was able patiently to adapt His life to the purposes of God. This conformity to God’s will is the secret to spiritual authority.
Meekness is the paradoxical key to spiritual power and authority. Moses, in his time the meekest man who ever lived (see Num. 12:3), wielded great spiritual authority.
Jesus, who was meek and lowly of heart, has saved us. Through His submission to the Father’s will, He inherited the universe. Do not be confused by the paradox of meekness. It is the meek who are blessed. They receive spiritual authority to inherit the earth.
You have been granted a boon, a great wonder. You have been offered citizenship in the kingdom of God. You may become the subject of an ancient, grand, and wise Sovereign who decrees peace and joy throughout His realm.
You may be adopted into His family. You may call Him Daddy. Your destiny is to be a prince (a princess), royalty in the kingdom of God. He will be your instructor, showing you the wisdom of His ways. You are to carry great responsibility with great skill. When your work is done, you will retire in splendor and live happily ever after.
Here are the keys you need to begin this journey:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
* All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated, are from the New International Version.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Randy Salt is an entrepreneur living in northwest Washington. He enjoys sailing, writing, and preaching.