Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Poverty of Spirit

My airport card is still not working correctly -- thus I have had a sort of internet fast that was not of my own making this last week.  It causes me to wonder about what exactly is necessary and what exactly is luxury.

For basic physical life, I've upheld the belief that there are 5 areas where we have real need: food and water, shelter, clothing, education and medical care.  If any of these are compromised, we live in poverty.  Now the lack of a place to live is a much deeper poverty than lack of medical care, so my list is also a list of priority.  These things are necessary for humans to live in dignity; to live a good life.

I have wondered about the things that are necessary for us to live a good life spiritually and emotionally.  I believe we can make a list here as well: relationship with God, relationships with each other, a sense of purpose and fulfillment, disciplines to strengthen the inner life such as prayer and meditation, time in community/time in contemplation.  Personally there are things that I need in order to be healthy spiritually.  I need a clean and ordered place, I need a certain amount of time alone everyday to just be and think, I need a certain amount of affection from my family members, I need good and healthy conversations that stimulate my mind and my soul.  I need that sense of purpose.  I need cats. I need a certain amount of sleep and a certain amount of exercise everyday.

I wonder exactly what is meant by the phrase "poor in spirit."  Matthew Henry said, "this poverty of spirit is a gracious disposition of soul, by which we are emptied of self, in order to our being filled with Jesus Christ."  Wesley said, "He has a deep sense of the loathsome leprosy of sin which he brought with him from his mother’s womb, which overspreads his whole soul, and totally corrupts every power and faculty thereof."  Thus theologians would tell us that to be poor in spirit is to realize our moral bankruptcy before God and lean only upon God's spirit.

I wonder if to be poor in spirit can mean to place real value my personal spiritual health --to value that spiritual health above the love of material possessions.  Francis of Assisi cultivated those things that fed his spirit and eschewed those material possessions.  Francis was truly poor in spirit.  What would it mean for me to emulate this poverty of spirit?  What would it look like? How different would I structure my life, my time and my money?

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