In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
To kick things off exploring how Jesus’ words help us live well in the context of our upside-down world, we’re joined by Tara Conradt, pastor, parent and ‘accidental activist’ based in Wadjuk-Noongar country in WA.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
The Beatitudes are a prophetic picture, looking at what could be or what is supposed to be. That's how I read it. When Jesus makes these ‘blessed are…’ statements, I don't imagine he meant that was actually what was going on in peoples’ experience. He's speaking to another truth. I've leaned into that, in terms of thinking, what do these things say about where we're supposed to be heading? That's the nature of the prophetic – it states what is a greater truth than the present reality, and gives us a place to go.
I think that this passage has been impoverished when used to suggest it’s not talking about those who are physically lacking. We know because of the passage in Luke [6:20] that it definitely is, at least that. What I found interesting was looking at the possibility that ‘poor in spirit’ might reflect some of the Old Testament phrases that are similar, like Isaiah 66:2 where it talks about being lacking in spirit; David uses the expression in the Psalms to express his repentance – ‘devoid in spirit’, he says, but he's referring to his brokenness at what's happened. When I see a glimpse of this kind of thing in practice, it's the people who, whatever their experience of having their needs met or not, have a posture of being able to recognise where they themselves are not living true to what we are called to live like.
Is the kind of world I'm creating, the decisions I'm making, the things that I'm committing my energies to, or voting for – does it lead to a place where more of the ‘poor in spirit’ are gonna say, I am blessed?
“Theirs is the kingdom”: it's present tense. [The poor in spirit] experience the kingdom in that posture. We risk distancing ourselves from this reality that we're called to live into, when we carry ourselves with a posture of pride.
Sometimes we get caught in the idea that, once we go through a process, it's like, once and done. For me, [becoming poor in spirit] has come down to humility and recognising my own need and dependence. It runs counter-intuitive to our current culture of independence: I am, I can do, I don't need anyone else. But we're part of something that we can't separate ourselves from. There will always be ways that we need to grow in understanding. When I walked into a Christian community for the first time, I came out of a place of brokenness and experiencing various kinds of separations and disconnections. Finding community in a church environment wasn't something I was looking for – I was looking for escape. Looking back, I see that in my lack, I encountered the provision of God in a way that has probably set the trajectory of my life.
When I was first in church there was this song, ‘Let the weak say, “I am strong”; let the poor say, “I am rich”’ – probably gives away what era I started out in church – in my immaturity I literally thought it was saying, Let those who are poor see me and say that I'm doing well! How backwards is that compared to what it's actually supposed to be saying?
But I found the flip side to that is something that I think we can put it into practice: asking, well, if Jesus is saying this is what the true reality is supposed to look like, then is the situation or the circumstance or the environment I'm creating, or the decision I'm making – is it one where the poor, the poor in spirit, or the humble, or repentant, or mourning – would they say, I am blessed because of what we're doing here? Is the kind of world I'm creating, the decisions I'm making, the things that I'm committing my energies to, or voting for – does it lead to a place where more of the ‘poor in spirit’ are gonna say, I am blessed?
Creator God, your ways are good and your will is perfect. Thank you that in Jesus, you show us the way and you invite us to be part of making the way. Lord, help us to recognise the things that are not yet as they should be, because in your reign all things are as they ought to be. Help us to desire the day when the poor say ‘I am provided for’, when the weary find strength and when all things are made new. Help us to seek you. Help us daily to make our way there, by your grace and all for your glory, Jesus. Amen.
A year ago in March 2021, Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique briefly appeared in the news when some foreigners and a major gas exploration were caught in an insurgent attack on the town of Palma. But this was just the latest flashpoint in a conflict that has been going on since 2017, in which between 2000 and 4000 people have been killed, and close to 700,000 displaced.
For children living in temporary resettlement camps, daily life is heavy with the trauma of fleeing their homes, and the challenges of disrupted life: no school, far from friends, uncertainty over the future. “I miss school and some of my friends as I do not know where they are or if we are ever going to meet again,” shared one nine-year-old girl.
Tearfund Australia has been partnering with Tearfund UK and Food for the Hungry in Cabo Delgado to help people displaced by this country’s long conflict, providing food and hygiene support for internally displaced families. These expressions of God’s love in action are helping to build hope and peace for hundreds of families who, though they have lost so much, are resilient and courageous.