Poverty is not only economic but can also be spiritual. In Matthew 5, Jesus blessed people who recognized their spiritual shortcomings. This was in stark contrast to the local religious leaders, the Pharisees. One Pharisee publicly prayed, “Thank [God] I am not like other people— robbers, evildoers, adulterers” (Luke 18:9-14).
The Pharisees were so sure they had a monopoly on “proper” faith. Yet Jesus embraced doubters, unlike the religious leaders. Poverty of spirit includes those for whom belief is hard. The Christian church hasn’t always appreciated questioners in its midst, but Jesus blesses questioners like His own doubting disciple, Thomas. Instead of punishing Thomas’ doubt in His resurrection, Jesus invited Thomas to touch his open wounds (John 20:27).
Thomas was blessed because he wasn’t too embarrassed to say that people don’t usually rise from the dead, and “let’s just check that this isn’t a trick” (John 20:25). Thomas questioned Jesus on other occasions too (John 14:4-5), and Jesus continued to engage him instead of dismissing him. Thomas is believed to have gone on to spread the gospel to India after Jesus’ ascension.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
The poor in spirit may lack enthusiasm, feel unsure, or begin wandering in their faith. When Jesus blessed them, he said “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” That means that being doubters does not cut us off from Christ but instead can be an invitation into conversation and discovery.
Resource Reading: John 20:19-31