February 2, 2020: The Poor In Spirit

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Nearly endless are the words, spoken and written, throughout church history that discuss, debate, and interpret the Beatitudes. This bulletin back is very small by comparison, so allow me to quickly share my personal take, one take among many.

The Beatitudes are not necessarily a to-do list. For instance, I don’t believe being “poor in spirit,” a phrase whose interpretation alone requires a few bulletin covers, is a goal we should strive for.

Here in Matthew, I believe Jesus is addressing two groups of people. Group one, those already poor in spirit, is told God has not forgotten or abandoned them. In fact the kingdom of heaven itself is as good as theirs, a promise of hope, their suffering will someday end.

The second group is the people who are not poor in spirit. For them, this passage serves as a reminder of just how much God loves all people, including those in the first group. So when a member of group two sees a member of group one out on the streets of life with a spirit broken by addiction, poverty, injustice, mental illness, failed relationships, and so forth, we would do well to not ignore them or cast them aside. God loves them enough to promise them the kingdom.

The meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers, people we should venerate, are often trod upon and humiliated in our society where fame, punitive “justice,” and victory through conflict have greater value. Thus the Beatitudes are a message of hope and encouragement for those directly addressed in group one, and a reminder to the rest of us to not devalue those whom God loves.


Jay Petrella, pastor, Morning Star Moravian Church,
Coopersburg, Pennsylvania