Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: poor in spirit

No room for boasting

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For we brought nothing into this world” (1 Timothy 6:7). The Apostle was talking about material things, but I don’t think it does his words any violence to say that no one of us came into this world with any pre-qualifications for salvation. In that respect, we are all equally impoverished.

Perhaps we had parents who were genuine Christians in word and in life, and grandparents and great-grandparents. And they all belonged to a church that was firmly grounded on the unadulterated gospel of Jesus-Christ. That’s wonderful. It’s something for which to be thankful.

But it’s not something to boast about. Their faith is not transferable. I get no credit for the faith of someone else; my salvation is solely based on my relationship with Jesus Christ.

I was not saved because I was “raised in the church.” That gave me an opportunity to hear the gospel. But many others have had the same advantage and spurned it. There are many who grew up with the light of the gospel shining all around them who are now walking in darkness.

Others who grew up in the darkness of this world are now walking in the light. And are probably much more thankful for it than those for whom the light has been an everyday reality as far back as they can remember.

It is well and good for those who have been raised in Christian homes to be thankful. But there is only a fine line between thankfulness and boastfulness. When we talk much about our Christian heritage and think that it sets us apart from the common run of humanity, we are no longer poor in spirit. And to those around us who may be seeking for spiritual light, we are apt to be more of a hindrance than a help.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

The spiritual riches that we enjoy are not our own. We did not inherit them. We did not acquire them by wisdom, by doing the right things, or by any other means at our disposal. These riches came from admitting that we were impoverished, blind and unable to help ourselves. Let us rejoice and be glad in them. But let’s forget the boasting.

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The worthy poor, and other heresies

Charity, with all its shades of meaning, is one of the chief virtues of Christianity. We know that one way to exercise charity is to help those who are unable to buy the necessities of life. But we don’t want to be too profligate with our largesse, so we decide to limit our giving to the “worthy poor.” Let’s stop a minute and think about that. If they are worthy, if they deserve our charity, then our charity is no longer charity, we are simply giving them what they deserve. That is justice, not charity.

The giving of material help, in the form of money or otherwise, is only a small part of what is meant by charity. But that thought of restricting our charity to those who are worthy tends to worm its way into all our human relationships. So and so doesn’t understand me so there’s no point even trying to visit with her. Someone else has such a contrary attitude that it’s a waste of time trying to explain anything to him. Thus we limit our friendship to a select circle. If it’s all about me and my feelings, that is not charity.

Jesus promised a blessing to those who are poor in spirit, so we want to be poor in spirit in order to receive the blessing. But is there a conviction deep inside, that we almost succeed in hiding from ourselves, that we are one of the “worthy” poor in spirit? We deserve the blessing because . . .  Because of what? Good blood lines? Because we never did anything that was very wrong? Or perhaps we have led an outstandingly, spectacularly sinful life and we have become worthy by turning around. Again, it is all about me. Grace that is deserved because I am “worthy” is not grace at all.

I need to come to God and confess that everything that has ever turned out wrong in my life has been my own doing. Nobody helped me, I did it all by myself. And I need to hold on to that truth the rest of my life. I am still capable of all the things I once did, and far more besides. Then the grace of God is truly grace, and I can be charitable to all those who don’t seem to like me very much, because I am not worthy that anyone should like me. Everything good that comes my way in life is an unmerited blessing.

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