REFLECT – Day 4:
We’re sticking with our exploration of what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’ and how Jesus lived His life in such a way to reflect such qualities. We also read Jesus’ teaching and can see how this idea was a normal part of His message.
Today we encounter a one of those moments of teaching in Luke 18:9-14. As is our normal practice, take some time to pause and read through this passage. Perhaps use a pencil or pen to underline or highlight things which seem important.
Of course this challenging teaching is directed at a Pharisee. They were Jesus’ main human opposition and constantly sought to trip him up so to accuse or shame Him. They also considered themselves secure in their own salvation because of their efforts and strict adherence to the law. It may be easy to dismiss this teaching and laugh at their ignorance but Many people think that to live well is to be self-sufficient. But life is impoverished without vulnerability – without the love of God and of others. Coming to God full of ourselves is the opposite of what it means to be poor in spirit. The Pharisee in Jesus’ story is like this: superior in everything. Are we also like this man?
Did any of us just skip past that last question? Are we also like this? If so, why? Is it a question we have to easily dismissed as ill-relevant to us? Or is it simply to hard to acknowledge the truth? Maybe sit with the question for a little while.
On the other hand we hear about the Tax Collector. Who for all intents and purposes would have been fairly well off financially and secure in his worldly goods. He too could have become self-sufficient. However, his attitude is rather different. The tax-collector comes with empty hands. He stands far off, eyes cast down, beats his breast and prays, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ This is what it means to be poor in spirit. It is the tax-collector who finds the kingdom of heaven. Jesus says ‘The man went down to his home justified rather than the other.’
It’s only fair to allow time for the same question. Reflect on the thought: Are we like this man?
If we come to God full of ourselves. If our prayers are boastful and focus on our reputation before others, we cannot receive anything. Our reward is self-exultation, but that’s where it ends.
So the challenge is to come to God with empty hands, as the tax-collector did in his story. To embrace our spirit’s poverty and find blessing in humility.
Pray, today, with empty hands:
‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
Try saying the tax-collector’s prayer or the Lord’s prayer twice: once with your hands full and once with your hands open and empty.