I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.
Psalm 16:7 NIV
Last week God gave me a dream. A sleeping dream with a message I couldn’t ignore, one that was so specific and so spot-on there was no way it was coincidental. God was showing me something. He was showing me people in my life, acquaintances mostly, people with whom I’ve interacted on a few occasions. And he was showing me something very specific, and very convicting, about my heart. I knew in my dream that I had misjudged each of these people at some level. Upon meeting each one, I’d made assessments. Embarrassing, and clearly the truth of what God wanted me to see. I’d assumed some people beneath me, and others above, while others I assessed as equals. And then, as the dream unfolded, God continued to show me how wrong I’d been.
The next morning the message remained clear. This unconscious habit. Unconscious no more. Now I’m aware. And with awareness, comes a healthy dose of conviction—not of the shaming kind, but the kind that is genuine in desiring change. “God, what do I do about this? How can I change it?”
The dream had a source. Or sources.
A book. A podcast. A Bible study.
God has been showing me almost daily a new way of seeing the way of Jesus. A new way of seeing people in light of his kingdom.
I relearn a simple phrase from Jesus’ teaching.*
Blessed are the poor in spirit.
Until recently this phrase “poor in spirit” has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Does it mean humble? A spiritual beginner? Materially poor? Is this “poor spirit” a good thing… or a thing to avoid? Is it something I must obtain in order to receive Jesus’ blessing?
Hold that thought. And consider these questions:
Have you ever felt like you’ve had the life sucked out of you? Or has something taken the wind out of your sails?
I believe these are metaphors. I say this with some caution, due to a recent corrective I received from a group of savvy teenagers, who brought me up to speed on the difference between metaphor and simile. Context:
Read Psalm 1. What metaphor is used in this psalm?
Actually, “like a tree planted by streams of water” is a simile. My mistake. The students teaching the teacher.
That said. I learn “poor in spirit” has little to do with any of my previously assumed definitions—and everything to do with metaphors. This word “spirit” in Greek is the word pneuma, a word directly linked to the Hebrew ruakh, both meaning wind/breath/spirit.
Poor in spirit = impoverished of pneuma.
Short of wind-breath.
Depleted of life.
Have you ever known someone who seems a bit lifeless?
Enter Jesus. Sitting hillside, looking with uncanny presence out at a sea of people. Seeing the people. Jesus looks out and he begins his litany of blessings. He begins with this…
Blessed are those who’ve had the life sucked out of them. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.
A few days later I’m reading James, chapter 2. A passage I’ve known—but never like this.
Like a finger dipping its ink from heaven, bold font:
My brothers and sisters, do not show favoritism
If you look with favor on the one wearing the fine clothes
And yet you say to the poor person, “Stand over there”
Haven’t you made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
If you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
What do you do if you’ve committed a sin?
Thank you, God, for caring enough to show me these things in my sleep.
Portions of scripture taken from James 2:1-9 (CSB)
*Teaching about “poor in spirit” inspired by BibleProject “Sermon on the Mount” playlists and podcast.