"Look at me, Mom!" Shane cries. "See what I can do?" Mom turns her reluctant gaze from her gripping novel to look at her son who was swinging from the park's jungle gym.
"Woohoo!" she shouts with forced enthusiasm. "Way to go, Shane!"
Shane drops to the ground with a dramatic roll on the ground and, beaming with pride, swaggers over to his mother. "I'm the best of all the kids on the monkey bars!" he brags.
Mom smiles indulgently, ruffles his hair and says, "Yes, you are!"
Beginning during the innocence of childhood, pride--the antithesis of a "poor in spirit" attitude--rears its ugly head. We will do battle with pride all of our lives.
The words "poor in spirit" are translated in different ways (Matt. 5:3). The Phillips translation uses "humble-minded." The Amplified Bible uses "humble, rating themselves insignificant." Berkley says the poor in spirit "sense spiritual poverty." The Message reads, "‘You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.'"1
To eradicate pride entirely is not only impossible, but it is also emotionally unhealthy. A certain degree of pride urges us to keep our homes and properties clean and our bodies neat and in good health. A dab of pride gives backbone to personal dignity.
On the other hand, an excess of humility is insincere and keeps us wary of the Uriah Heaps among us. So how can we strike a balance between pride and excess humility?
- Those of us in leadership roles can remember that we must give account to our Master (Eph. 6:9). The honor given to pastors, evangelists and missionaries may cause them to be puffed up unless they keep their servanthood in mind.
- We ordinary people can have dignity in our less-noticeable lot in life. Because God gave us life and provided salvation, we are important in His plan for our generation.
- We can remind ourselves that Christ gave His life for each of us. We are valuable to Him.
Being "poor in spirit," the foundational premise of the Beatitudes, is simply maintaining an attitude of humility. We can develop humility by:
- Not giving too much weight to our mistakes. Both kings and peasants err, and those of us in between! We all hate to make a faux pas, but few errors are fatal or irreparable. We make amends or ask for forgiveness, and then go on with life.
- Not allowing our successes to puff us up. God gives us our triumphs, but they won't go to our heads when we remember our work was only our duty. "When complimented concerning the amazing growth of the Missionaries of Charity, the work she had founded, Mother Teresa replied, ‘What wonders God has done with nothingness.'"2
- Training ourselves to be grateful. Saying "thank you" acknowledges the input of others in our lives. Thanking God for something as simple as a good parking place recognizes His moment-by-moment care for us.
Developing a poor-in-spirit attitude will bring us spiritual riches beyond our understanding. To provide abundant spiritual resources, Jesus left His heavenly throne to obey His Father. He prayed, "‘Not my will, but yours be done'" (Luke 22:42). Shouldn't we emulate Him in humility?
1 Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright ©1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.
2 Eileen and Kathleen Egan, O.S.B., in A Gentle Spirit: Devotional Selections for Today's Christian Woman (Uhrichsville, Ohio: Barbour, 1999).