“Blessed are the poor.”

It’s actually what Jesus really said although you wouldn’t know it from listening to sermons, and preachings, and bible teachings. That’s because Christian leaders and teachers are afraid of those words and the corresponding sacrifice they seem to suggest.

Those Christian leaders and teachers are way more comfortable with Matthew’s “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  But me... I’m pretty sure Matthew got it all wrong... again.  I’m always skeptical of any “additions” I find in his gospel. The author of Matthew’s gospel (or possibly a subsequent copyist) had a penchant for “additions” and “clarifications” that are just… well… wrong. I won’t go into detail here but I feel obligated to list three awful “clarifications” that you'll find in the very first two chapters of the Gospel According to Matthew:

  1. Prophecy fulfillment as “Son of David” in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-16)
  2. Prophecy fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 and the Messiah’s virgin birth (Matthew 1:22-23)
  3. Prophecy fulfillment of Hosea 11:1 in the “call from Egypt” (Matthew 2:15)

These three are just a small sampling of where Matthew’s “clarifications” are at best a stretch (or, as Spock says: “leaps of illogic”) and at worst just flat-out wrong.

wanna guess how many times the phrase was used elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel? 0.

Also, this particular "clarification" doesn't actually clarify a darn thing. The phrase “poor in spirit” is used here but is never explained. Now, many times you can figure out the meaning of a word or phrase used in scripture by finding other places it's used in the Bible. So… the phrase “poor in spirit” - wanna guess how many times the phrase was used elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel? 0. How ‘bout in the other three gospel accounts? 0. Maybe in the rest of the New Testament writings - the account of the Acts of the Apostles or the letters of Paul, Peter, James, or John? A big fat 0. Ok… anywhere in the whole Bible? Nope - nowhere, nohow, nothing. So, if Matthew’s record is correct, Jesus started out his clear and straightforward teaching in the Sermon on the Mount using a cryptic phrase that he never explains nor uses ever again. Me… I’m not buying it.

But, even if we set aside Matthew’s confusing “clarification”, the whole concept of being “poor in spirit” without actually being poor or destitute just doesn't cut it in the real world. Being poor “in spirit” is most often interpreted as being “humble” and always conscious of God’s impact and affect on one’s life. It is set up as a goal a person can seek out and achieve by “thinking” differently and behaving appropriately - all without ever having to sacrifice comfort or privilege. In fact, maintaining that “humility” in the midst of wealth and comfort is an accomplishment to be celebrated - one should be proud of their humility.

And, there’s the problem.