Blessed Are The Poor in Spirit
...For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
by Heidi Baker with Shara Pradhan
Selected Excerpts from “Compelled by Love”
When God first sent us to Mozambique, people were blowing up relief vehicles after decades of war. We came into an atmosphere of floods, famines, and pain untold. We thought it was the perfect place to offer our lives, the perfect place to see God’s kingdom established.
Rolland and I came to Mozambique in 1995 to see the gospel proven, to see the glory of God in the darkness. We came to heal the sick, raise the dead, and drive out demons in the power of the Holy Spirit. We came to serve God and not money. We came for relief from worry about our lives, what we will eat, drink and wear. We came to be Jesus’ hands extended among the poor. We came to see righteousness, peace, and joy. We came to some of the most grief-stricken, suffering people we could find in the world, a population that had suffered decades of war, disease, and oppression. And we came to learn – from them – about the kingdom of God.
If God was not with us in this unfamiliar world and ministry, we did not want to continue. If He could not be trusted and followed, if the Sermon on the Mount was simply impractical, if we could not do “even greater things” than Jesus did (John 14:12), then our mission work was – and is today – hopeless. We have no back up plan. We have nothing but Him.
What Does it Mean to be Poor in Spirit?
Everywhere we travel in the West, we tell people that Jesus does things upside down. We have learned this from sitting with the poorest of the poor and letting them teach us about the kingdom of God. Jesus loves to show Himself strong to the weak first, the most unlikely, the forgotten, and the most humble of all.
In Africa we have seen Jesus do this. For the poor draw us into a life of living even lower still, leading us on the low road – the only road forward – until we become as desperate for God as the poor are for daily bread. When we send our international visitors home from Mozambique, we always pray that they take home the riches of the poor because, as Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Many ask why Jesus reserves the kingdom of God for the poor in spirit. Why is it that the wealthiest people and cultures experience fewer miracles and less of the supernatural?
What does is mean to be poor in spirit? There is something about the poor that delights the heart of God. They are contrite. They know they are in need. But what is it about them that draws the kingdom of God to Earth? The answer to this lies in their dependency, hunger, need, and desperation.
True Dependence on God
Since moving to Mozambique, we have learned to depend on God for everything. If God does not show up there, we are dead. In the Western church we decorate the altar, sing another amazing song, wave another flag, turn on the colored lights, and smoke machines, and sit in a very comfortable chair. Some of these things can be wonderful expressions of creativity and ingenuity. They can, however, become backup plans. What we need more is to be totally dependent on God showing up. We need His pure presence.
In our poor Mozambique mud-hut churches, we have to have God show up – and we have to have fresh food – or no one will come. People wouldn’t want to come to church for the carpets because, even if we had them, they would be full of dirt and bugs! People come to church to dance, to rejoice, to sing, to meet with God, and to be healed and delivered.
I am finally beginning to understand God’s kingdom from the children and the poor. They teach us about dependence, humility, and being emptied of all else so that God can fill us. They simply have nothing else.
Interdependence: We Need Each Other
Why does God break forth in Mozambique in such power among the poor here in Mozambique? It’s because the poor rely on each other. They need each other. They live in a community of interdependence. They have to share with each other just to survive. Those who have much are often quick to accumulate and slow to give away. Yet those who have little are quick to share. They often give without remembering; they receive without forgetting. The poor are truly rich for the simplicity of their devotion.
I did not move to Mozambique with an action plan to save the country. My goal was not to start a revival. My vision was not to oversee thousands of churches. I came to learn to love, and I am still just at the beginning of that journey today. I am just starting to learn how to love more. I believe this is my lifetime goal. I want to love God with everything within me. I want to love my neighbor as myself.
When God sent me to the poor, it was not for what I could give, but for what I could learn and for what I could receive. God did not start by telling me to minister to the poor but to be ministered to by them. Mother Teresa said:
“Today it is very fashionable to talk about the poor. Unfortunately, it is not fashionable to talk with them.”
We need to start talking with them. The poor are my friends and my family. Village life is quite simple compared to Western culture. I love to camp in the mud-hut villages and enjoy the simplicity of the poor. We sing and dance into the night, worshiping our beautiful Jesus. There are no computers, videos, CD players, or electricity to distract us. It is a simplicity of devotion.
The poor have taught me that we must receive just to live.
Rich vs. Poor
Does poor in spirit mean financially poor? I believe Jesus meant that poor in spirit is a posturing of the heart where one is wholly given, fully yielded, completely desperate, and totally dependent on God alone. The Lord wants to cause even the rich and the middle class to be poor in spirit and know that they are in total need of Him.
God often brings me from the poorest of the poor to those who have financial means. I feel, in some simple way, that I then bring the treasures of the poor to the wealthy church, which is so in need of simplicity.
Recently God spoke to me about His desire for multiplication and how He wanted to raise up an entire army of laid-down lovers – people who are willing to lay down everything for the love and service of God – who will carry His glory to the ends of the earth. Jesus spoke to me about a mass, student-volunteer, missions movement to bring the gospel – true love poured out – to every tribe and tongue.
A Call to All: Everyone is Invited
I believe being poor in spirit is a choice – a decision we all have to make to go lower still, fully dependent on the One who is always dependable.
God answers all of us according to our faith and hunger, and in fulfillment of His plans for you that were laid before the foundation of the world. God desires all His children to come alive with compassion and not shrink back in unbelief. Rich or poor, if you are tired of hiding from the world’s problems and want to partake of God’s nature to bring life to the dead, Jesus is more than enough. We need God, and we need each other.
God has sovereignly given us an outpouring of love, joy, and refreshment to the poor and suffering in Africa. But today, God calls all of us – rich and poor – to rest in Him and to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, loving our neighbors as ourselves. For this Jesus died. We are also all called to share and to remember the needs of the poor.
We all want to see the glory of the Lord cover the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). I pray that Jesus will draw you deeper still, I pray that you can lie down, giving and trusting everything to Him so that He can trust you with everyone. And when you get up, there will be revival – whole nations will come to Him, falling on their faces. He changes us with one glance of His eyes so that we are not afraid to be completely abandoned in His arms.
Excerpts from Heidi Baker, Compelled by Love (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2008), Used by permission.
Heidi Baker founded Iris Ministries with her husband Rolland. Together they served as missionaries in Indonesia, Hong Kong and the streets of London before following God’s calling in 1995 to Mozambique. Having faced overwhelming need, the Bakers now watch God provide miraculously for more than 7,000 children. Learn more about the Bakers and order “Compelled by Love” at www.IrisMin.org