The virtue of being ‘poor in spirit’

image: Joshua Earle

One of the downfalls of mega-religion is that they’re rich in their religiosity.

These giant, historical institutions have hefty possessions of intellectual and spiritual pride. They’re self-satisfied, arrogant and weighed down by social prestige.

And their bills every month are monstrous…

In order to keep this huge machine up, they have to make it seem like they know the answers. This is a scarcity-based strategy to get people to pitch in and keep the lights on. It says, the answers can only be found here, so pay up. And if they really want to make it lucrative, they have to make it seem like they hold the keys to an afterlife of certainty.

In my observation, fewer and fewer people today are buying it. We have quite calibrated nonsense detectors these days and are questioning organized religion more than ever (although, I have to say, I’m quite impressed by Pope Francis).

However, we’re still seeking connection with something greater than ourselves. I’d say that we’re more open to the living Spirit now, more than ever.

What I’m about to explain is that many of us today are ‘poor in spirit’. And this, my friends, tells me we’re on the right track…

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. 
— Jesus

The ego hates this phraseology (at least mine does)… It tries to twist it to mean something small and becomes offended by it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy being described as ‘poor’.

Now, before we dip our toes into this, there’s a couple things…

First, we have to remember that the words in the Bible are translations from far different languages and ancient dialects (no, Jesus was not Anglo Saxon).

We also have to look past the literal meaning of the words and see through to their spiritual meaning (for example, ‘daily bread’ does not mean a subscription to a baguette delivery service). They’re symbolic and poetic on most accounts. Including this one.

To be poor in spirit does not literally mean ‘poor spirited’. It means to have emptied our desire of personal self-will and previous spiritual holdings.

The poor in spirit keep an empty cup. They remain open to the unfoldment of their own soul rather than depending on an outside checklist from a doctrine or a belief.

To be poor in spirit is to remain ever hungry for more understanding.

Money, property, fear of public opinion, and the disapproval of relatives and friends don’t phase the poor of spirit. Spiritually speaking, they have nothing to lose because they keep themselves empty and ready for more.

They’re not overawed by human authority. They don’t hold firm to their opinions. They see that their most cherished beliefs have always been and will forever be overturned and renewed.

This is the power of the poor in spirit. In them lies a spirituality that’s ever-evolving and pushing the edges of its prior self.

It’s a bold move, emptying our spiritual pockets of past beliefs and structures. But in order for our soul to become replenished and grow, we have to remain empty.

And in our emptiness, we find the infinite.


Jonas Ellison is a spiritual writer, teacher, practitioner, and an interfaith minister-in-training. He helps people deepen their lives through applied spirituality while documenting his journey along the way.

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