When Jesus first made this statement, the poor must have laughed. What blessing could possible come from poverty? In first century Judea, poverty was common. Jesus also mentioned hungry people, and those who mourn. Loss of life easily happened from manual labour accidents, disease and war. Families were left to face extreme hardships.
Poverty is still with us, even here in Canada. Stats Canada says there are about 3.2 million people living with low incomes, including 634,000 children. That’s roughly 10% of all Canadians. I’m sure poverty was much higher in Jesus’ day.
The Lord didn’t say the answer to poverty was simply to feed people, although He did do plenty of that. In Luke 6:20-21, He said the poor would be blessed because they could have the kingdom of heaven. Likewise the hungry would be satisfied, but not just with food. Sometimes people with great possessions can feel poor in spirit, hungry for deeper things to make life worthwhile, and certainly nobody is exempt from “weeping” over inevitable losses. There is more than one way to be poor.
The poor are blessed when they turn to Jesus and find forgiveness, acceptance, love, depth of spirit, and new lives to live. They gain the ability to laugh again in a hard world; to be satisfied deep inside instead of trying to buy it with money; and feel the solid ground on which to build a better life.
The poor and hungry need our help. But they need the real blessings that can only come from facing poverty of the soul. This is our work as His people.
– Tim Johnson