A spiritually rich life begins with a confession of spiritual poverty. That is my understanding of Jesus’ words in His Sermon on the Mount. He began a series of 8 blessings with this statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” What does it mean to be poor in spirit? The word translated as poor in this verse is the same word used to describe Lazarus, the beggar.
We more easily understand physical poverty than we do spiritual poverty. And yet there is a biblical case for understanding that the sin experienced in the Garden is the ultimate source for all poverty on the face of the earth. Sin forever changed God’s design for us at creation. The world became forever broken and remains so apart from the hope of the gospel found in Christ.
I returned two weeks ago from a trip to Peru with several pastors to experience the ministry of Compassion International. Compassion helps over 1.6 million children around the world to find hope from extreme poverty. Their strategy includes meeting the cognitive, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a child’s life. As a pastor I was impressed by the way they value the role of the local church in the local communities to which they are ministering. They are ministering to families on the front lines of poverty and in the journey of taking care of their most pressing human needs they are intentional about connecting the hearts of these families to Christ.
My family chose to sponsor a 7 year old boy Fabrizio whom we want to share our love with alongside our own children who are 10, 5, and 6 months. We desire to invest in giving hope to others in the world. We believe in the philosophy that to change the life of a child can lead to changing the lives of a family and then a community. We do not want our children to feel guilty about what they do have, but we do want them to be grateful. We want them to be responsible. That is the call on the life of every person who knows Christ.
One of the most difficult emotions to see or feel in life is hopelessness. I learned a new definition of poverty from our Compassion trip. Poverty is hopelessness. The most heartbreaking part of the trip for me took place at one of the more recently established works of Compassion in one of their partner churches. You could sense the burdens the pastor and staff were carrying in their hearts as they were doing all they could to minister to these families in this newer work. We saw hopelessness on the faces of young mothers. As a husband and a father I know that one of the happiest sights in the world should be that of a mother holding her baby in her arms. What we saw in that moment was worse than sadness. Sadness at least evokes tears. Tears express feelings. Instead we saw the empty stares of mothers who had lost hope. There was no emotion at all. At least not yet. We can be hopeful for others when they have no hope for themselves and that is the call of the Church.
We did, however, see hope that day. Before we left, the children gathered together to give us a gift. Their gift was a song and they sang a beautiful song with joy and passion. I am so grateful that we were able to hear the children sing before we left. They were discovering the love and care of Christ through this church and they sang a glad song in return.
It reminds us of where the broken story of the redeemed will end. Our sin and brokenness finds hope through Christ and one day this world will end in a heartsong of praise to Him who will forever sit upon the Throne.
The arresting thought from this trip for me goes back to spiritual poverty. How easy it is for me to mistake all of my possessions as spiritual riches without recognizing what Jesus has said about His Kingdom. The bamboo wooded walls of my heart, the dirt floors of my inner world, and the thatched coverings of my existence are all laid bare before Him who through Christ pronounces a blessing on me. This is true riches. This, the hope of the gospel, Christ in us.
Please go to http://www.compassion.com for how to sponsor a child and for more information about the work and mission of Compassion International.
© 2015, Phillip L. Dunn