Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Matthew 5:3
“The teaching of the Sermon on the Mount produces a sense of despair in the natural man— exactly what Jesus means for it to do. As long as we have some self-righteous idea that we can carry out our Lord’s teaching, God will allow us to continue until we expose our own ignorance by stumbling over some obstacle in our way. Only then are we willing to come to Him as paupers and receive from Him. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit….’ This is the first principle in the kingdom of God. The underlying foundation of Jesus Christ’s kingdom is poverty, not possessions; not making decisions for Jesus, but having such a sense of absolute futility that we finally admit, ‘Lord, I cannot even begin to do it.’ Then Jesus says, ‘Blessed are you…’ (Matthew 5:11). This is the doorway to the kingdom, and yet it takes us so long to believe that we are actually poor! The knowledge of our own poverty is what brings us to the proper place where Jesus Christ accomplishes His work.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
In 1991, Robert J. Kriegel published the book, If it Ain’t Broke … Break It! It was a call to businesses to not sit idly by as the business world changed. Businesses needed to change and to try to stay ahead of the curve. I did not read the book, only the jacket. I was already the crazy guy at my workplace that tried to get ostriches to see that change was coming. At least they thought I was crazy, only changing when change was forced upon them by regulations and business standards, blaming me for not being more convincing with my pleas for change. (Funny how that happens.) By that point, the other companies that paid attention to the changes were far ahead, and we were desperately trying to catch up.
What does this have to do with the Scripture or the Chambers’ quote? Those in charge at the business where I worked at the time could have accepted the advice, at least investigated a little, and we would have been the first company in the country ready to meet the new standards, but their pride of being the best at doing it the old way nearly destroyed the company. In business, in sports, and in life in general, there is a thin line between confidence and arrogance. In the illustration that I described above, the management team was too arrogant in being the best at the old way. They did not see change coming because they were too arrogant to see anything other than their exemplar record of the past. Then again, were they really that much better than their competitors or was that excessive pride also?
In our Christian life, we accept Jesus into our hearts, and we repent of some overt sins that everyone knows that we are guilty of. Then, the little stuff that is too numerous to count goes untouched, because we think that we are okay getting rid of the big stuff. No one else can tell (maybe the spouse, but they forgive us – maybe). And then we wonder why we have not grown in faith. We wonder why Jesus has not trusted us to do something important. Maybe the important thing was getting those little things taken care of, and we failed Him. In the process, we failed ourselves.
Whenever I thought that I was doing a great job, I quickly learned a hard lesson from God. It usually resulted in going onto my knees and begging God for forgiveness. I was never a bad kid or a bad adult. I just did not listen to God as I should have. I thought I was smart enough to handle the easy things. And I walked into disaster, blindly. Oddly, I thought I had my eyes open, seeing 20:20. I thought I had gone to God in prayer (check!). I thought I had a good plan (check!). I thought I had looked at the major contingencies and had those covered (check!). Why did it fail? Because I went to God as a conquering hero, the boss’ miracle worker who always pulled off what others thought was impossible. I was not broken. I was not humbled. I thought I could take care of this easy task; just thinking it to be easy pointed to my arrogance.
Don’t get me wrong. In business, I had a tremendous success rate, not 100%, but close – that others accepted the credit for. I got several bosses promoted. But my failures seemed to be in the arenas that counted more than at work: Home, Family, Church, Volunteer Work.
I have written a post on a spiritual gift survey that our Sunday School class took last Spring. Some in the class thought they knew what their strengths were. They proudly talked about their strengths of leadership and teaching. In the worldview, they might be very strong in those areas, but would I follow where they lead from a spiritual standpoint? No, probably not. Would I sit at their feet and learn? Definitely not. Okay, the humble ones in the class who said that they were still learning and were shocked that the survey said that they could teach… Yep, I could learn from them.
Why did I say the “Salvation Prayer” over 500 times before God changed my heart? I wasn’t broken enough yet. Even then, I learned a lot as a newborn reborn. I thought I knew more than I did know. That led to more brokenness before I could continue to learn.
Max Lucado, in Traveling Light, made the following statement, referring to our failures that rival Peter’s denial of Jesus, boasting, but not following through. “Oh, the volume of our boasting. And, oh, the heartbreak of our shame.”
I think that the intelligent among us are like the rich that Jesus talked about. He said that it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:24). That richness need not to be limited to money. As Chambers suggests, the ‘poor’ in the Scripture above does not pertain to money, but to being spiritually poor, being broken. But anyone who is proud of one aspect of their life is rich in that arena, at least in their minds. To be usable, we might just need to be broken. Humble yourself in order to be useful.
“If it ain’t broke … Break it!”
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.