Blessed are the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).
The kingdom of God is not a distant realm. When Jesus spoke of “the kingdom of heaven,” He was not talking about a city in the sky or about church on Sunday. He was talking about God’s rule, as it bears on our lives today. The “kingdom” is a realm (it occurs in the invisible realm, in human hearts) and a rule (it operates by the power of God).
G. Campbell Morgan, the great Bible expositor of the early 20th century, called Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, “The Manifesto of The Kingdom.” That “manifesto”—His proclamation of the kingdom lifestyle He intended to bring about in those who submit to God’s rule in their lives. The first character trait Jesus mentions of people who receive the kingdom could be misinterpreted as becoming “pitiful or self-pitying.” But rather, to be “poor in spirit” means to be humbly dependent on God and God alone.
Just as “poor in resources” causes a person to admit, “I don’t have what it takes, and I can’t gain it on my own,” so, we acknowledge ourselves as “kingdom people” when we say: “Father, only You have what I need, and I depend upon You alone to show Your way in Your time.”
Whoever does and teaches (God’s commandments), he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).
Here is a remarkable truth, worthy of our fullest understanding. Because of the fact that we are “saved by grace” and without “the works of the Law,” some misapply these words of Jesus. He notes that while our salvation is neither based on, nor sustained by, our performance of the Law of God’s Old Testament commandments, we are still called to obey them.
In describing the character traits of kingdom people, Jesus emphasizes this. He was unmistakably clear: People who teach that God’s Old Testament Law is unimportant are “least” in His value system; people who do and teach the Law are “great.” Of course, this is not intended to induce a guilty sense of failure for Laws we disobey. Neither is it to bring defeat to our souls, when we are still “learning to walk” and sometimes stumble over God’s commandments. Our salvation is secured in Christ’s Cross, and our justification ensures our continuing acceptance with God. But still, as we grow and go forward in the life of the kingdom, the commandments of God provide a holy blueprint for successful, liberated living.
But seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
There are, perhaps, no more reassuring words in the Bible, which evidence God’s personal, protective and provisioning care for each of us, than those spoken by our Lord Jesus. In Matthew 6:25-34, He so clearly links us with the Father’s heart for all His creation, that we see two lessons at once.
First, creation itself has not been surrendered to mere self-perpetuating care. God has invested something of His own self in His creation, in the same way artists or craftsmen pour their skills—and thereby their fullest interest—into their work.
Second, humankind are the peak of the Father’s creative masterwork; endowed uniquely with His image and possessed of rare potential, both temporal and eternal. No wonder He cares as He does! And there, Jesus affirms to us: The Father won’t overlook your need, so don’t worry!
But, in this context, our Lord does tell us what we are to concern ourselves with. He says, Do seek the interests of God’s Kingdom! Do love. Do serve. Do help the fallen. Do reach out with salvation’s power and grace. Our appointed schedule of priorities is established: “You take first interest in the things that concern My desire to reach, touch and love others, and I’ll take care of everything that concerns you.”
Pastor Jack Hayford