Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Poor in Spirit

My upstairs neighbor, Rekha, is one of the most generous people I have ever met. The other night, she came home with a couple bags of groceries and started unpacking. “Want some blueberries?” She asked me, and put some on a plate for us to share. Then she told me about how God spoke to her, while she was still Hindi, and he promised to bring her safely out of a terrible situation, and he did. “God is so good, isn’t he? Have you tried goat’s milk before? No? Here, you can try.” Before I knew what was happening, she handed me a full glass, and then kept telling me how God has continued to speak very clearly to her and provided for her and her daughter here in the States. “He can do all things, I know this now. Do you like tea? Yes? Well here, you can have any of my tea you want, all the time.” She showed me where her stash was and continued unloading her bag and praising the Lord. “You eat rice? Ok, I have a big bag under the sink, so, you eat. And I have rice cooker here, so, you use.” I thanked her, and she smiled and asked if I liked my goat’s milk... Which I did, amazingly enough.

Thing is, Rekha doesn’t have much money and works at probably less than minimum wage. She is poor, by our American standard, and yet she doesn’t horde her possessions, doesn’t fear losing anything. I’ve seen this before – people who I know are going through financially difficult spots and yet they delight to bless others with their stuff. I wonder if in some ways it is easier for them to give away because they have less to lose. But why is it so hard for those of us with so much to casually pour tall glasses of milk for strangers from our new bottle?

I’ve often wondered what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” I don’t think that this blessing is only extended to those who don’t have any money, as some people like to interpret it. After all, it says “poor in spirit,” not just “poor.” I also don’t think it means those who are spiritually bankrupt, who have nothing to hope for, because the rest of the phrase says, “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In the context of my kitchen space, sharing Rekha’s groceries with her, I understood. Blessed are those who don’t claim any worldly thing for themselves, who choose to live simply and generously, as many "financially poor" people do… Whether you get paid $5 an hour, $50 an hour, or none at all, you are blessed when you live as though you have nothing that is yours to keep, nothing to lose by offering what is in your bag to someone else.

And you can live in this attitude – in this spirit – when you realize that the kingdom of heaven has been given to you. God, who owns everything, has poured out on you the very best of his own possessions to have for eternity. When you understand that, it is easier to do the same for others, because you want them to experience the same joy and hope you feel when God gives to you.

Blessed is Rekha, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to her.

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