paupers-2

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Empty yourself and become humble, then receive a share in the responsibility for God’s kingdom.

I chose the title “The Eight-Fold Path” because of how popular the eight-fold path of Buddhism has become in America.  Spiritual seekers want a clearly defined manual for attaining spiritual blessedness.  One blog explores a comparison of the two.

The Beatitudes Compared to the Eight-Fold Path of Buddhism

The conclusion of the post can be summarized in it’s final paragraph.

Of course there are similarities, which frequently would be the case with ethical thinkers. However, the entirety of the eight-fold path is based on self improvement. The beatitudes, however, are almost exclusively concerned with righteousness before God. There is no self-improvement in evidence.

Thus, the fundamental premise of each is strikingly different. And that’s what sets apart Jesus from Buddha.

I think there is some validity to his point.  The Bible is not a self-help book.  It is quite the opposite.  Jesus says “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”  In the context of this discussion, I would say that this is an indication that Jesus asserted that when we give up the idea that we can improve ourselves, then God can improve us.  I would further say that when we give ourselves up for others, then our lives will become bless-ed, which certainly is an improvement, but not just for us.

So my intention is to explore each Beatitude in the context of losing our lives in order to gain them.  “It” meaning to gain a life of beatitude.  The first Beatitude is:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Empty yourself and become humble, then receive a share in the responsibility for God’s kingdom.

These words seemed so abstract to me for many years, until I found that my life was headed toward ruin with alcohol at the center of it.  I was living life for myself, on my terms, to satisfy my desires no matter the cost.  I felt that I was living just as I wanted and yet the people around me were suffering for it.  I was suffering as well, but I did not realize it.  Empty myself?  What would be left?

If I emptied who I was would I still be a musician?  Would I still have all of my quirks?  Would I still be a writer?  Would I still be able to indulge my guilty pleasures?  Would I still be able to do whatever I wanted to do?  Would I still be ME?  And yet, my life had become unmanageable.  What I was doing was not working.

I had to take a chance on another way.  I joined a recovery group.  Over the course of months of morning and evening prayer, “I surrender my will to you” and “Thank you for the life you are giving me.” (or some such), something began to break up in me.  As my life began to improve, I began to trust that God might have a far better will for me than my own.

One limb at a time, God began to tear down the dam that was holding me from a vast stream of beatitude; from bless-ed living.  When I got out of the way.  When I emptied a space in my life.  When I surrendered all of my suffering, all my burdens, and finally, all that I held dear into the hands of someone far greater than me, I became humbled.  And in my humility, I found a great desire to take care of my family.  I inherited a share in the care of my realm of God’s Kingdom.  All that was holding me down was lifted when I lowered myself.  When I lowered myself, then the order of God’s Kingdom became manifested in my life.  As Isaiah put it ages before Jesus was born, “Every valley shall be raised.  Every hill made low.  And the rough places will be made plain.”

I’m writing this as much for my sake.  It’s easy to lose focus.  It’s easy to begin taking credit for beatitude.  That is a sure way to lose it.  The virtue begets the blessing. The blessing begets the virtue. Living with the spirit of poverty, humility, is the beginning of the journey.  Spiritual journeys are not linear.  They bring us back and back to go forward and forward.  Returning to humility is not a failure.  It is a nurturing of our spirit.  But most importantly it is a nurturing of our relationships, with both God and our neighbor.

Questions:

  1. What in my life is standing in the way of my humility and therefore God’s blessings?  Resentment?  Anxiety?  Addiction?
  2. Surrender in this context doesn’t mean quitting something.  It means handing it over to the care of God.  What part of me can I empty in an act of surrender?  My love for food?  My desire to be right?  My children?  My job?
  3. What blessings are already in my life?

Prayer:

God of Blessing, I offer [this part of me] to your care.  I am open to the possibility that you have better plans for [this part of me] than I have for it myself.  Make me poor in spirit.  Amen

Remember, this is a path of blessing which we receive when we become open to a virtue, and virtue which grows out of blessing.  God is the source of all virtue, not we ourselves.  Once one is given, it unlocks the door to the next.  With the desire to care for others, which is the result of humility, then we may mourn with God over the suffering of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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