Lifestyles of the Poor in Spirit
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In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer details what it means to abide with Christ. According to this late author, the art of following hard after God is more than a 10-step program or simply reciting a prayer. It's a continuous mission of the heart to connect itself to God... a cat-and-mouse chase that is equal parts satisfaction and longing.
The kind of intimacy with God that Tozer wrote about starts with the very first Beatitude: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" [NIV]. He wrote, "The way to deeper knowledge of God is through the lonely valleys of soul poverty... These blessed poor are no longer slaves to the tyranny of things."
I had a professor my first year of graduate school who explained it like this: everything that God gives us, we must hold with an open hand. We freely accept His gifts and never hold on to anything that would cause us catastrophic sorrow if it were removed.
That's a hard way to live in today's world that teaches you how to say "mine" by the age of two. It seems as though everyone is in a mad dash to get as much as they can – like we're all reality TV contestants backstabbing our way to a million dollar prize. People are in love with the almighty dollar, but it's not the way God planned it.
In the 1999 film, Fight Club, the demented antagonist had one thing right when he spouted, "The things that you own end up owning you." It's true. It can be easy to fall into the perception that a certain line of clothing or specially engineered car turns you into the person that you've always wanted to be. Before you know it, you dive headfirst into a lifestyle of stuff -- none of which you can take into the afterlife.
The Scriptures plainly state that the love of money is the root of all evil (), and even Jesus said that it's next to impossible for a rich man to enter into Heaven ( ). Why is the same God who wants us to have an abundant life so down on our dreams to be fabulously wealthy? Because He realizes that the pursuit of anything earthly is futile at best, and if left to our own devices, we will attempt to fill our God-shaped hole with things of this world.
And it's not just material things. Some times it's people. Think of the father who lives vicariously through his son to the point of obsession. What about the woman whose identity is so wrapped up in her relationship that she doesn't know who she is apart from her boyfriend. Anything can move in on God's rightful place.
We all have wants and desires – some of which are God-given. However, they have their proper place. As people who should strive to please God first, we must put a boundary around our heart and say, "Desire, you stay over there. My heart belongs to God."
When we give up our hunger to be first and release our grip on the things we think we own, God is open to give us all He has. Just as He prophesied to Malachi regarding the tithe: "Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don't open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams" [3:10]. Every good gift that we are capable of holding in this life will be emptied out of the Father's hands into ours. All we have to do is make room.
So, a life of ease is one where we let go of everything that we think we have to have in order to be happy. We trade the burden of things for His kingdom and walk unfettered with the Father. In that exchange, we become wealthier. It is the essence of soul poverty and the reason why God said the poor in spirit can have everything that He offers.
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