As I consider the hard words that Jesus gave us in these beatitudes (and the corresponding woe), the hymn that Paul quotes in his letter to the Philippians becomes so much richer in meaning.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross! (Phil 2:5-8, NIV)
From communion with the creator, owner, lord and king of the universe to common people. Not the rulers or even the elite. But a carpenter and his seemingly unfaithful wife. Mary could easily have been among the destitute if Joseph and her father had followed the cultural norms. She and her child (if she had survived the pregnancy and birth) would have been alone, begging for support from a community that would consider them both outcasts.
Is it any wonder that Jesus saw these people with compassion? Is it any wonder that he came right out and said they should be honored and not shamed? In his economy, there is plenty – because those who have much, share. He had everything, and he came to set the captives free, heal the sick, bind up the brokenhearted. To honor them and to honor God.
Do we honor God by excusing our relative wealth? No. And yet I rationalize it away by happenstance. After all, God provided my family, my place, my means. I didn’t choose to be an Anglo, well-educated American woman. And yet, I do choose how I use those means that God has provided to me. I do choose whether that wealth (even though I often feel poor) goes to serve me or to serve the many.
When I looked at the art for this first session, the thing I noticed was the light. I thought to myself, the thing I need to know when I am in the pit. When I am emotionally and spiritually destitute is this: Does God see me? Does he know I am here? And Jesus’ words… Blessed are you who are poor (in spirit) tell me the answer is yes. God sees me. God wants the light to shine on all who are destitute. As a light-bearer in this world, the church must see all of God’s poor children as well. See them, love them, care for them, honor them.