Poor in spirit vs poor self esteem
Isaiah 66:1-2 “Thus says the Lord; Heaven is my throne and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist.” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look; On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at My word.”
The sincere, contrite soul is precious in the sight of God. He places His own signet upon men, not by their rank, not by their wealth, not by their intellectual greatness, but by their oneness with Christ. The Lord of glory is satisfied with those who are meek and lowly in heart.
What is the biblical solution when a person is paralyzed by a sense of guilt or unworthiness? I believe with all my heart that the solution is not self-esteem. God did not say to Moses, “Stop putting yourself down. You are somebody. You are eloquent.” That is not the biblical way. What God said was, “Stop looking at your own unworthiness and uselessness and look at me. I made the mouth, I will be with you. I will help you. I will teach you what to say. Look to me and live!”
Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American poet and philosopher who died about 100 years ago, wrote a famous essay called “Self- Reliance.” It captured the spirit of the age, and the spirit of our age.
Trust thyself, every heart vibrates to that iron string. Discontent is the want of self reliance. It is infirmity of will.
Christ is a stumbling block and an offense to Emerson and to even us – because it takes the disease that we hate most, namely, helplessness, and instead of curing it, makes it the doorway to heaven.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 What then is poverty of Spirit?
- It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
- It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God
- It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God
- It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God
- It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.
The reason I say it is a sense of powerlessness etc. is that, everybody really is poor in spirit. Everybody, whether they sense it or not, is powerless without God and bankrupt and helpless and unclean and unworthy before God. But not everybody is “blessed.” When Jesus says ‘Blessed is the poor in spirit,” he does not mean everybody. He means those who feel it. Blessed are those people who feel keenly their inadequacies and their guilt and their failures and their helplessness who don’t try to hide these things under a cloak of self-sufficiency, but who are honest about them and grieved and driven to the grace of God.
The biblical answer to the paralysis of low self esteem is not high self-esteem. It is God’s grace. God’s way of freeing and mobilizing people who see themselves as worms is not to tell them that they are beautiful butterflies but rather to say, I will help you. Trust Me, I am your Redeemer.