Matthew 5: 3
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We read a Bible in English (well most of us do), that has in most cases been translated from a Greek version, which in turn was translated from the original Aramaic, the language Jesus would have spoken. Over the years the meaning of words can change quite dramatically (in one of Wesley’s hymns he has a line saying ‘The bowels of God move over the Earth – which meant something entirely different from what we would think of today).
The Greeks as the adage says not only had a word for it – usually had two or three at least. They do so for the English word “poor”. One word meant the poor working man or works for his living but rarely if ever makes ends meet, the other which is the one used in this verse means total abject poverty; the person who has nothing whatsoever to call his own. Someone once defined the difference as the man who has nothing superfluous and the man who has nothing at all.
Why is Jesus calling for people to be in abject poverty? Well of course he isn’t! Remember he was speaking, and Matthew and the rest of his congregation were hearing, Aramaic a dialect of Hebrew. In Aramaic the word used was one that meant quite specifically one who was so poor and bereft of material possessions they have put all their faith in God. It has been suggested a truer translation of the meaning here would be:
Blessed is the one who has realised their own utter helplessness and who has put their whole trust in God.
That does not advocate poverty, it does not endorse the awful idea of “They are poor but happy”, it says that when we realise we cannot cope alone that we need God’s help and his help alone to get through, then indeed we shall be blessed.
The hymn says “All my trust on God is founded”, we can never find a more secure foundation on which to build our Blessings.
The paradox is that having received the Blessings that come when we trust upon God we shall never again be poor.
Lord God our loving Father in Heaven, we look for comforts in all sorts of things, teach us that true comfort comes only when we trust in you, guide us Lord for in you we trust.
In your Mercy hear our prayer,