Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3)
“I am not religious, but I am spiritual.” If only I had a dollar for every time I have heard that phrase. It has become the new mantra. People who have, or want, no affiliation with any organized religious group or tradition but still want to be identified as having some commitment to religious/spiritual beliefs and practices. Being spiritual is worn as a something of a badge of honor. Being religious is seen as archaic, cold, legalistic, and often arrogant. Being spiritual is seen as being free, enlightened, on a path to something higher and more noble. Oddly enough I am convinced that the statement of being spiritual is at its heart a prideful thing.
In the first of Jesus’ famous statements that we now call The Beatitudes, Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the spiritual.” In fact, He said the exact opposite. He literally said, “Blessed are those who recognize that they are spiritually bankrupt.” That is what is at heart of what Jesus is saying. It is extremely significant that Jesus says this as the first of the “blessed are you” statements. Before you can ever really experience blessing from God, you absolutely must recognize how spiritually bankrupt you are. If you are ever going to recognize that you need God, you have to recognize at the core of your being that you are bankrupt without Him.
Going all the way back in the history of human beings our biggest problem is that we have been trying to live as if we did not need God. Saying “I am spiritual” is more about me than it is about God. In fact, it is one more step in the process of trying to be our own gods in charge of our own lives. We have tried to deny our own need for God. Being “spiritual” is about my effort to get in touch with and become something other than what I am. It is about be being good enough to reach a higher spiritual plane. All of that sounds wonderful but it is dependent on me, my effort, my storehouse of personal resources and ability to become something more, something good, or holy, or enlightened.
The problem is we are spiritually bankrupt without Jesus Christ. We just don’t want to admit it. It is said that the first step of recovery is admitting your need. Our first step in spiritual recovery is admitting that we have nothing in ourselves that has any spiritual value. We are totally and utterly dependent on God for our spiritual existence. Paul makes it clear in Colossians 2:13-14 that before we come to faith in Christ, we are spiritually dead. That is just another way of saying spiritually bankrupt. We will never be able to get close to God until we can admit how far from Him we really are and how dependent we are on Him for any spiritual life we might have.
The hurdle that we need to overcome is our pride. We are afraid that if we admit that we have nothing to offer spiritually then we are somehow admitting we are losers and we will be stuck there. What Jesus says is that we are spiritually empty, but that He values us far more than we could ever imagine. In spite of the fact that we are spiritually bankrupt, actually because we are spiritually bankrupt and can do nothing for ourselves, Jesus came and died on a cross to open a treasure-house of spiritual life. We will not tap into that storehouse unless we are willing to admit that we are in desperate need of what Jesus offers. When you come to that place in your life you will be blessed beyond measure. Don’t be afraid to admit on a daily basis that you are a sinner saved by grace and totally bankrupt in yourself. Yet, because of what Jesus has done, you are filled spiritually everyday by one who loves you more than you can imagine.