Thoughts on the Way Home

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Beatitudes Revisited

The other problem is that Jesus wasn’t humble for the same reasons we are (or should be). So how can looking at Jesus’ Christmas humility help us? Our humility, if there is any at all, is based on our finiteness, our fallibility, and our sinfulness. But the eternal Son of God was not finite. He was not fallible. And he was not sinful. So, unlike our humility, Jesus’ humility originated some other way.
The above quotation comes from a recent article by John Piper. I have been wrestling with this issue myself. In my current study of the Beatitudes I've read sections from many of the popular works on the subject. One trend I've noticed - for better for for worse (I vote for worse) - is that the burden of the teaching usually focuses on the individual in sin. You find this most in those trying to define poverty of spirit. And the issue is brought into sharp focus when dealing with the why of poverty in spirit. What is the appropriate thought process which brings about this mindset?

As previously stated the majority of writers place this in terms of our individual sinfulness. The reasoning is that - on your own - you are spiritually bankrupt before God. Never once have you loved Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. So based on this reality, the appropriate response is poverty of spirit.

Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling.

I agree with that. This element must enter into what drives this mindset. But an important question must be asked. In what does the poverty of spirit in Christ consist? After all Christ said of Himself that He is gentle and humble in heart (Matt 11:29). Paul used this same truth to spur the Philippians toward humility (Phil 2:3-8). Note that the context of his discussion is humility of mind. So in what does the poverty of spirit in Christ consist? What role should His poverty play in ours? And should the dominate theme in discussing the Beatitudes be our sinfulness, or the Beatitudes as exemplified in the life of Christ? The answer to these questions have significant implications - not only for defining the Beatitudes - but for how we read the rest of Scripture.