Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt.5:3) But in Luke 6:20 we read
“Blessed are you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.” Our Lord was therefore referring to two distinct realms. In both cases He was referring to those who are His people, whether Israel or the Church.
First of all, those who are poor in this world’s goods are said to be blessed because they are far more likely to present their daily needs to God in prayer, thereby learning dependence on God in their daily walk . But those who are rich tend to become independent, resting on the security of their wealth. This is the simple lesson encased in Jesus’ words. He was not saying that rich people were excluded from the Kingdom of Heaven, but elsewhere He did say that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”(Matt.10:25) Therefore if you find the Lord has led you along a path of poverty, be content, and know that this is good in His sight. But if you find yourself possessed of riches, (as were Abraham and Job) then learn, like them, to use your wealth as a God-given ministry to the poor, rather than hoarding it for personal pleasure.
But the Lord also spoke about being “poor in the spirit”, which is distinct from material wealth. Those who are blessed with spiritual gifts are just as likely to “miss the bus” as those who are financially rich. Jesus spoke about many who would approach Him in a latter day, saying they prophesied, cast out demons, and did many mighty works in His name, only to be told that He knew them not. (Matt.7:22) Those in the Laodicean church declared they were rich and had need of nothing, but the Lord said they were poor, miserable, blind and naked. (Rev.3:17) How is this? Only by comparing these two realms of riches can we spot the answer.
Just as financial riches tend towards independence, so also does the profusion of spiritual gifts. Paul recommended the Corinthian church to seek the best gifts, but mainly to prophesy. Why? Because prophecy is God’s salty word, and it often boomerangs back on the one who utters it, as with OT prophets and Jesus Himself. There is therefore no risk of growing self-importance.
Today the world has come to know the Charismatic Church which boasts of spiritual riches. They use such inappropriate language as “kids of the king”, “name it and claim it”, “health and wealth”, and major on triumphalism, a soft-option gospel, and easy-believism. But there is a danger in all this because it leads to the point where one is ready to tell the Lord what wonderful things they have done in His name rather than expressing thanksgiving for the wonderful things God has done for them through Calvary. Another example of independence.
The true way is the way of the cross, and the Bride takes that path, through the narrow gate and along a constricted pathway towards spiritual maturity. This I attempted to portray in my poem “The Second Eve,” in WP3. It is not a popular route.