Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
First, what does it mean to be rich in spirit? I think this has to do with the spiritual attachments of a person. As mentioned previously, a person can be of many spirits, and the more consumed a person is with the spirits of this world the more their soul—the core self—is also attached to this world.
We know that this world is passing away, so we do not want to overly identify with this world and the spirits of this world.
A person who is rich in spirit feels a sense of contentedness with the things of this life and with themselves.
A person who is poor in spirit is not content with this life and with themselves. They know that something is missing from their life.
Can a person who is rich in spirit find the kingdom of heaven? If a person is content with their life, how can they give their life over to Jesus? If a person is content with themselves, how can they repent of sin? How can they seek Jesus to be healed if they “don’t need the physician?”
16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:16-17).
The scribes and Pharisees were the religious authorities in the days of Jesus. They did not think that they needed to hear His teachings because they were whole already. They were rich in spirit.
Jesus knew this, so He did not bother much with the scribes and Pharisees. Instead, He spoke to the publicans (tax collectors) and “sinners.” The scribes and Pharisees were also sinners, but they could not see it. They justified themselves in their legalism and hypocrisy while condemning others. They felt themselves superior.
Jesus comes to those who are “poor in spirit,” and He makes them whole. A person who is poor in spirit is one who can receive the gospel. A person who is poor in spirit is one who can receive the Holy Spirit. A person who is poor in spirit is one who can continue to grow in the faith. It does not matter how long you have been a Christian. You still need the physician. There is still room to grow.
Knowing these things, should we support self-affirmation culture? Should we seek to have a positive self-image or a high self-esteem?
There are understandable reasons why a person would be attracted to the idea of positive self affirmations like, “you are enough,” “you are perfect just as you are,” “you are strong,” “you are independent,” and so on.
People cling to these things because they are poor in spirit and they are looking for something to fill themselves. However, if we fill ourselves with more “self” and not Jesus, then the void only worsens. Instead of being filled as we should be, we become desolate (empty and void of life-giving substance).
The ideas of positive self-esteem and self-affirmation culture are harmful lies that have invaded Christianity. This is a tool of flattery that makes a person fat and lazy in spirit. Jesus does not flatter, but Satan does.
There are few idols more harmful than the idol of self. There are few idols more harmful than the idol of mankind’s sufficiency. These are satanic in nature, and they rob you of the real wealth you could experience in Jesus. These lead to a mindset of “I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing.” Because of such ideas, many do not know that they are “poor, bloody, and naked.” (Revelation 3:14-22).
There are many Christian churches and teachings that perpetuate worldly prosperity. This includes measuring God’s blessings in financial wealth, popularity, and promoting a positive self image.
How is it that many do not see how deranged this is? Don’t we know that God wants to pull us out of this world, not make us comfortable and complacent in it?
It is amazing to me how many believers are of the prosperity gospel mindset, and some do not even recognize it. They even deny the prosperity gospel, but in their daily lives they welcome it. Their words betray them when they indicate God’s favor through money, career, popularity, or a positive sense of self. This is not good.
Let us consider this.
I know this life is hard and this world can be so cruel. We want to find our place. We want to be accepted. We want to be loved for who we are and not for what others think we should be. Many of us are carrying around deep shame that stems from childhood or abusive relationships. We want to believe that we are enough for someone.
In Jesus, you can come to Him just as you are no matter how sinful. However, He will not leave you unchanged and this is a blessing. He will fill you with Himself, and you will find your place of acceptance.
However, you will not find place and acceptance in the things of this world. The things of this world are in opposition to the things of the Kingdom of Heaven. This world might even despise you, but you will not care because you found a place that matters more. You found a love that matters more and sustains more than any person could, least of all your own self.
When He loves you, you are safe. He knows your flaws and He helps you overcome. He heals you, and though you are never good enough to live forever, He gives you everlasting life. You can trust in Him. He is your strength, sufficiency, and place. He provides you with a new nature, a new identity, and a new purpose in His kingdom.
You do not need self-affirmations or positive affirmations. You need Jesus.
If you are Christian and you cling to self-affirmations, then maybe you should consider. Are you still poor in spirit? That is good. Seek Jesus more.
Are you making yourself rich in spirit by filling yourself with more self and more of this world? That is not good. That is desolation. Repent and recognize your poverty so that Jesus is what fills your heart. You cannot have it both ways, and Jesus is not going to make you rich in spirits of this world. He will make you rich in His Spirit, but that requires poverty of the self and often poverty in this world.
Here are more scriptures to consider:
For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isaiah 56:15).
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17).
16 The face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all. 20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.
22 The Lord redeemeth the soul of his servants: and none of them that trust in him shall be desolate. (Psalm 34:16-22).
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn;
3 To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.
4 And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
5 And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.
7 For your shame ye shall have double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.
8 For I the Lord love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.
9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.
10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.
There are riches in spirit to gain in Jesus Christ. In Him we have joy, even during times of trouble and suffering. We trust in Jesus and not in the flatteries and dead things of this world. We praise Jesus alone, and not ourselves or others. In so doing, we are filled with the abundant riches of His Spirit, and there is nothing to be compared to what He has to offer us now and in the eternity.
As Christians, we need to glorify the Lord, Jesus in all that we do. If we are glorifying self or others, then there is a problem and we need to repent. Self is desolation. The world is desolation. Man is desolation. We need to recognize this. We need to stop glorying in man and filling others with flattery. We need to honor Jesus alone.
Self is an idol that needs to be removed. Do we worship this image? We should not. In the next article, we will consider other idols that we use to find our sense of place, purpose, and self. We will contrast these with the only ideal we should focus on: Jesus.
Note (inserted a few hours after original posting):
I try to be careful with my words, but sometimes I become aware of things that could be taken the wrong way. As for the prosperity gospel mentioned in the above article:
Just because a Christian is prosperous financially or in career or socially does not mean they support the prosperity gospel. God has a unique plan for each Christian. For some, wealth is a blessing so long as wealth does not distract from the Kingdom of Heaven. Others, like myself, who are prone to “cares of this life and deceitfulness of riches” are best in poverty. At least for a time.
I know Christians who I consider to be very prosperous financially, in career, and socially who seem to be very zealous for the faith also. They give thanks to God for their prosperity (as is fitting) and they are also very generous. There is a lot of hatred in this world for those who prosper in the world, and we do not perpetuate that. Many are covetous, envious, and hateful towards the rich. That is not the Christian way.
We do not accuse our brethren of belief in the “prosperity gospel” just because they are prosperous or give thanks to God for prosperity in this world. However, the prosperity gospel is a real hindrance towards riches in the Kingdom of Heaven. Each person can seek Jesus and evaluate their own hearts. We do not have that place or that right to accuse people, especially the wealthy who thank God and have a giving heart.
We should also consider that the poor in this country are wealthy when compared to other countries. My poverty is also wealth. Do I believe in the prosperity gospel? No. After considering what I wrote this morning, I felt the statements I made about the prosperity gospel to have an accusatory tone because the full idea was not made clear. It was not meant that way, and I don’t want the writing to be used in that way.