#1 (THE "BEATTITUDES" SERIES)
"THE RICHEST POVERTY"
TEXT: Matt. 5:3; Luke 18:9-14
INTRO:Have you ever met someone who is deliriously happy about being poor? Probably not! Two things that don't seem to go together is poverty and shear joy.
What is it then that Jesus meant when He stated that, "happy are those who are poor in spirit"?
Poverty means emptiness, depression, unhappiness, starvation, struggles, disease, etc. When one is impoverished he or she is in a position of no power, no influence, and no authority. It is not just the loss of things; it is the loss of power and significance in the natural world.
Yet, Jesus uses this picture of poverty to explain that the greatest joy can only come to those who are "poor in spirit."
How can this be?
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that unless we are willing to accept our spiritual poverty, to recognize that we are completely empty, we cannot be filled with God's richest blessings. But for those who come empty, they leave filled, and full of joy.
I. HAPPY & POOR Matt. 5:3
A. Power of Poverty 5:3a
1. It is not material poverty that Jesus is talking about, but poverty of the spirit.
a. Those who realize that they have no way to save themselves.
b. Those who realize that their own righteousness is nothing but filthy rags.
c. Only this recognition of abject poverty can bring us to Christ in the right way.
2. The word translated here; "poor" comes from the Greek word "ptochos" (there are two words in Greek for "poor," one is "penes" which means a lack of worldly goods, a man who is struggling to make ends meet, and the other which is used here is "ptochos" which means "abject poverty," a man who is not just struggling but near death with nothing.)
3. What is Jesus' point? How can this man of abject poverty be"happy"?
a. Jesus knows that this kind of poverty takes everything away from a man, everything that we would trust in, or lean on.
b. Thus, this man is open to receiving what God has to offer, rather than trusting in himself.
c. This brings happiness, because God is such a God of love that He will fill that emptiness if we offer ourselves to Him.
4. Isn't it interesting that many of the prophecies about the Messiah stated that He would come "to preach to the poor." (Isa. 61:1-2)
a. When we are full of ourselves, we have no room for God.
b. Poverty is recognizing great need. When we are poor we are stripped of our own power, then we can experience God's power.
B. Payoff of Poverty 5:3b
1. The Kingdom of God comes to those who are poor in spirit.
a. Because they are powerless and poor, they can be filled with God's riches of grace and find a happiness that cannot be found in this world's stuff.
b. The payoff is a great joy, the joy of salvation.
c. This is a better happiness than that man who thinks he is hot stuff.
2. There is a special happiness that comes to those who can allow themselves to be poor in order to enrich others.
ILLUS:IN A JAPANESE SEASHORE VILLAGE OVER A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, AN EARTHQUAKE STARTLED THE VILLAGERS ONE FALL NIGHT. BUT BEING FAMILIAR WITH FREQUENT EARTHQUAKES THEY ALL SETTLED BACK DOWN QUICKLY. ABOVE THE VILLAGE ON A HIGH FLAT PLANE LIVED A WEALTHY FARMER. AS HE LOOKED TOWARD THE SEA AFTER THE QUAKE HE NOTICED AN OMINOUS DARK BAND ON THE SEA MOVING TOWARD THE VILLAGE BELOW. HE KNEW WHAT THIS MEAN. A HUGE TIDAL WAVE THAT WOULD DESTROY EVERYONE HOW COULD HE WARN THE VILLAGE? WHY WOULD THEY LISTEN TO THIS MAN WHO HAD EVERYTHING? HE CALLED HIS GRANDSON TO GET A TORCH AND HE BEGAN TO SET HIS GREAT CROPS OF RICE ON FIRE. THE VILLAGERS NOTICED THE FIRE AND SMOKE AND IN A MOMENT THEY CAME RUNNING UP THE HILL TO SEE WHAT THIS CRAZY RICH MAN WAS DOING. AS THEY MADE THE HILL AND TRIED TO PUT OUT THE FIRES IN THE FIELDS, THE OLD MAN SHOUTED FOR THEM TO STOP AND LOOK TOWARD THE SEA. AS THEY WATCHED, 3 LARGE TIDAL WAVES SWEPT THROUGH THEIR VILLAGE DESTROYING HOMES LIKE MATCHSTICKS. NO ONE SPOKE A WORD. THE RICH MAN HAD ACCEPTED POVERTY TO SAVE THEM ALL. MUCH JOY FILLED THE VILLAGE AND A GREAT LOVE GREW. THIS MAN CAME TO KNOW A GREATER WEALTH THAN HE HAD EVERY KNOWN BEFORE, A WEALTH THAT CAME THROUGH POVERTY. -- Source Unknown
3. The Bible states that Jesus became poor to make many rich.
a. That is why Jesus had joy ... even though the cross was set before Him.
b. He knew the price of poverty would bring a new kind of wealth to those who also knew they were poor.
4. If we measure our righteousness against Christ's righteousness we will see our poverty. If we measure our righteousness by our own standards, we won't see or experience Christ's.
ILLUS: A LITTLE BOY CAME TO HIM MOTHER AND STATED HE WAS AS TALL AS GOLIATH THE GIANT IN THE BIBLE. HE SAID, "I AM NINE FEET TALL MOMMY." THE MOTHER ASKED HIM HOW HE THOUGHT HE WAS NINE FEET TALL AND HE EXPLAINED THAT HE HAD MEASURED HIMSELF. THE MOTHER BEING A LITTLE SURPRISED TOLD HIM HE MUST HAVE READ THE RULER WRONG, BUT HE INSISTED THAT HE HADN'T. AND TO PROVE IT, HE BROUGHT OUT HIS TAPE AND SHOWED HER. SURE ENOUGH HE WAS NINE FEET TALL. BUT IT WAS A TAPE HE HAD MADE HIMSELF. BY HIS STANDARDS, HE WAS NINE FEET TALL, BUT NOT BY THE ACCEPTED MEASURING STICK. THIS IS THE SAME PROBLEM FOR SOME PEOPLE WHO BY PRIDE THINK THEY STAND SO TALL BEFORE GOD. CHRIST AS THE MEASURING STICK WILL REVEAL OUR TRUE POVERTY -- Source Unknown
5. We can never find Christ's salvation or joy without realizing how poor we really are in our own spirit.
II. HUMBLE OR PROUD Luke 18:9-14
A. Pathology of Pride! 18:9-12
1. Jesus explains the principle of "poverty" in this story of two men...
a. One comes as a wonderful example of spiritual discipline, but with a pride that is full on self.
b. The other is a wicked man who realizes his own poverty and finds God's forgiveness and joy.
2. "The Pharisee"
a. This is the kind of man on the surface every church would be proud of.
(1) He went to Temple faithfully, and to pray (a prayer warrior!)
(2) He came to the altar to seek God's face.
(3) He avoided sinful practices in his life, notice that he states he has not stolen, hurt others, committed adultery.
(4) Not only has he avoided doing the negative, but he has practiced the positive!
(a) He fasted twice a week ... a good Jew fasted once a year, this guy goes way beyond!
(b) He tithed from everything, not just the minimum!
(5) He would appear to be every pastor's dream parishioner, but there is something missing that makes this man a disaster - PRIDE of his own spirituality.
b. You will note the wording of how he prayed here: "he stood up and PRAYED ABOUT HIMSELF."
(1) He did not pray to God but to himself (and to those who were close enough to hear him.)
(2) This man was full of himself and it showed even though he did all the right things outwardly.
3. It is also clear that this man was comparing himself to others in the room. This is why he mentions the tax collector in his "prayer."
4. This man is really empty and yet he doesn't see it.
ILLUS:I HAVE NOTICED THAT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR THE BRANCHES ON MY APPLE TREES THAT BEAR THE MOST FRUIT BOWED VERY LOW TO THE GROUND. ONLY THOSE BRANCHES THAT ARE EMPTY ARE LIFTED UP UNDER THEIR OWN STRENGTH. THOSE WHO MUST CONVINCE US HOW SPIRITUAL THEY ARE, THEY ARE USUALLY FRUITLESS TOO. -- Source Unknown
5. This man was doing the right things, but for the wrong reasons. It is clear in his tone and his speech that his interests were to show everyone what a gift from God he was to everyone.
a. This is the fruit of pride, to draw attention to self rather than God.
b. The so called "wealth" of this man's spirituality had left him bankrupt before God. Pride is sin and it consumes our lives.
ILLUS:THE ANCIENT GREEKS HAD A LEGEND THAT NARCISSUS, THE SON OF THE RIVER GOD HAD FALLEN IN LOVE WITH HIMSELF. A PROPHET HAD COME TO HIS MOTHER AND WARNED HER THAT HER SON WOULD NEVER MATURE AS LONG AS HE KEPT LOVING HIS OWN REFLECTION. SHE REMOVED FROM HER SON'S LIFE ANYTHING THAT MIGHT CAST A REFLECTION, SUCH AS ANY METAL OBJECTS. SHE WAS DETERMINED THAT HE WOULD NEVER SEE HIMSELF AGAIN REFLECTED IN ANY THING. HE DID FINE UNTIL ONE DAY WHEN HE CAME UPON A QUIET POND OF PERFECTLY STILL WATER. AS HE BENT OVER TO TAKE A DRINK HE SAW HIS OWN REFLECTION IN THE WATER AND IMMEDIATELY FELL IN LOVE WITH HIMSELF. WITH A DESPERATE LOVE FOR HIS OWN SELF, HE BENT DOWN TO EMBRACE HIMSELF AND FELL INTO THE WATER AND DROWNED. SELF LOVE SEEKS TO EMBRACE SELF AND PROMOTE SELF TO OTHERS. THIS IS NOT GOD'S WAY. -- Source Unknown
6. It is interesting to note that the Pharisee was considered at the top of the ladder in spirituality, and tax collectors were at the bottom.
a. The tax collector stands a distance away from the altar; he is perhaps too ashamed to be near it.
b. What a difference in attitude from the proud Pharisee.
7. The Pharisee's self-righteousness had grown to the place where he no longer saw someone else's need, just his own importance.
a. Those who are "wrapped up into themselves make very small packages."
b. The Pharisee by all outward accounts would appear to have been "deacon" material in any church. But his heart gives away his true poverty of soul. If only he had recognized his own poverty he might have found real joy.
8. The Pharisee was a man who shouted to those in the temple how beloved by God he thought he was. (THOSE PHARISEES WHO PRACTICED THIS KIND OF TITHING OFTEN USED THIS PRINCIPLE AS AN EXCUSE FOR NOT GIVING HELP TO THEIR INFIRMED OR AGED PARENTS OR OTHERS WHO WERE IN NEED -- CLAIMING THAT THEY GAVE TO THE LORD; THEREFORE THEY COULDN'T GIVE TO MEN.)
a. While those in the temple must have taken notice of this man's spirituality, God took little notice of him. The only notice God took was one of disapproval.
b. Like a fruit tree, if this man had really been bearing fruit, he would have been bowed low, not exalting himself.
B. Positive Poverty 18:13-14
1. Now we see the contrast! A tax collector, the most hated of God's people has come before the Lord broken, poor, and pleading.
a. He does not pretend to be close to God. He stays away from the altar.
b. He makes no excuses for his poverty. He just cries out that he is desperate.
c. He makes no contrasts between himself and anyone else. He is calling out to God.
d. He realizes his own emptiness, and it is total.
2. He cries for mercy from God.
a. Grace is getting what you don't deserve.
b. Mercy is NOT getting what you DO deserve.
c. He does not pretend that he should even get grace. He will be satisfied with mercy, not getting what he really deserved, which was hell.
3. This kind of brokenness and poverty of soul God hears immediately.
a. Here is a man with nothing.
b. He simply wants God. He is about to be blessed and happy.
4. There is no need to convince anyone how important he is to God, he just knows poverty. And in his complete emptiness God is about to fill him with great treasure.
5. It is only when we die to self that we really find a good self.
ILLUS: A MAN NAMED SUNDAR SINGH WAS TRAVELING WITH A TIBETAN COMPANION ON A BITTERLY COLD DAY. SNOW WAS FALLING HEAVILY AND BOTH MEN WERE ALMOST TOO COLD TO GO ANY FARTHER. THEY BEGAN TO BELIEVE THEY WOULD NEVER SURVIVE THE TRIP TO THE VILLAGE THEY WERE TRAVELING TO. THEY REACHED A STEEP PLACE AND THERE THEY FOUND A MAN WHO HAD SLIPPED OVER AN EDGE. SUNDAR SUGGESTED THAT THEY SHOULD CARRY THE POOR FELLOW TO SAFETY BUT HIS TIBETAN COMPANION REFUSED TO HELP, STATING THAT IT WILL BE LUCKY IF THEY MADE IT THE WAY THINGS WERE ALREADY. SUNDAR, HOWEVER, COULD NOT LEAVE THE MAN TO DIE. SO HIS COMPANION WENT ON WITHOUT HIM. WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY HE FINALLY REACHED THE INJURED MAN AND WITH GREAT EFFORT SLOWLY MADE HIS WAY UP THE MOUNTAIN WITH HIM. AS HE CARRIED HIM TOWARD THE VILLAGE THEY SOON CAME UPON THE FROZEN BODY OF HIS TIBETAN COMPANION THAT HAD LEFT THEM EARLIER TO SAVE HIMSELF. SUNDAR CARRIED ON HOWEVER, AND FINALLY MADE IT, SAVING HIMSELF AND THE MAN HE HAD CARRIED. ONLY UPON REFLECTING DID HE REALIZE WHAT HAD HAPPENED. HIS TIBETAN COMPANION BY GOING ALONE HAD NOT BEEN ABLE TO WITHSTAND THE COLD, BUT HIS EFFORTS TO SAVE THE INJURED MAN HAD CAUSED HIS BODY TO WORK HARD RELEASING MUCH NEEDED HEAT TO HIS BODY. THE ACT OF CARRYING THE MAN HAD ALSO BROUGHT THE TWO OF THEM PHYSICALLY TOGETHER AND THE WARMTH OF THEIR BODIES TOGETHER HAD SAVED THEM BOTH. IT WAS THE EFFORT OF SAVING SOMEONE ELSE THAT HAD SAVED BOTH THEIR LIVES. HIS OLD FRIEND BY GOING IT ALONE AND ATTEMPTING TO SAVE HMSELF HAD COST HIM HIS LIFE. -- Source Unknown
6. Notice the outcome of these two examples.
a. The Pharisee leaves the temple no better off than when he came in. In fact, probably worse off.
b. The spiritually arrogant have no inner satisfaction. They are always seeking it by trying to convince others how spiritual they are.
c. The tax collector, however, goes home justified. (As though he had never sinned.) FREE AT LAST, THANK GOD I'M FREE AT LAST!
7. Whom do you think experienced the real treasures of God's love? The Pharisee or the tax collector?
a. The Pharisee only had the satisfaction that he might have fooled some people into thinking he was really something important, but not really feeling it.
b. The tax collector had the satisfaction and the joy of knowing that he was loved by God and forgiven. What joy!
CONCLUSION: There is a type of poverty that will make a man wealthy and happy. It is only when we realize that we are in abject poverty in the sense of saving ourselves or being spiritual that we can find the joy of salvation. Only when we are empty can God fill our lives. Are you truly "happy?"