How’s your spirit?
Mark Behle – Lesotho
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3
Why should people who feel they are poor in spirit feel blessed? Good question. This beatitude, like most of them, is easy to remember and memorize, but not nearly so easy to explain. I’ve looked at the beatitudes with my students in my synoptic gospels class for a number of years at Masitise High School.
If Jesus were blessing those people who felt a poverty of spirit, what would he have to say to those of us who feel no poverty of spirit? If we are feeling spiritually strong, perhaps we should reconsider!
I gained some insight into the meaning of the verse from the South Africa author Laurens van der Post. Van der Post wrote extensively in the last century about southern African cultures and peoples. In his book The Heart of the Hunter, van der Post offered this thought:
Realization of our greater selves comes first through recognition of what we are not. That…is the significance in the Sermon on the Mount of the enigmatic ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’. Only the spirit that recognizes itself to be poor through what it has not has any promise of increase.
Van der Post valued much about indigenous peoples and cultures of Africa and recognized that the rest of the world would do well to listen to voices beyond their own. His travels in Africa revealed how carefully nature was poised and how easily mankind’s influence could destroy that balance. He appreciated the approach of traditional African cultures toward the environment and the importance of seeing the world around oneself as an intricate and delicate part of God’s creation.
During the first half of 2005 I had many opportunities to share with churches about my experiences in Lesotho. While I enjoyed telling them about my life and work here at school, I also tried to emphasize areas in which we might learn from the people, church and culture. In the month since I have returned, the lengthy, yet joyous, celebration of giving and receiving the offering at my local church has reminded me once again about giving cheerfully. This past Sunday the women’s group slowly paraded gifts down the aisle for our local pastor (a woman) and the wives of two other pastors in the presbytery. The procession inched forward amidst the sound of singing, clapping and ululations of delight! The act of giving is something to celebrate and not something to be dispensed with quickly and quietly.
An awareness of what we might be lacking is essential for us to grow spiritually. If we think we know all that there is to know, then we only limit ourselves and do not reach the potential that God desires for us.
Most of our global mission partners do not have great wealth or material aid to share with us. However, they are often rich in evangelism, faith and witness. These gifts are more valuable than any wealth could buy. Let us make the effort to hear the voice of God speaking to us from our brothers and sisters in Christ from around the world.
Yours in Christ,
Mark Behle is a missionary with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. He is a Mathematics teacher at Masitise High School, Lesotho.