According to legend, Bacchus once offered Midas his choice of gifts. Midas asked that whatever he might touch should change into gold. Bacchus consented, though sorry that Midas had not made a better choice.
Midas went his way, rejoicing in his newly acquired power, which he quickly put to the test. He could scarcely believe his eyes, when he found a twig of an oak, which he had plucked, become gold in his hand. He took up a stone; it changed to gold. He picked up a cup to have a drink and it turned to gold. He took an apple from a tree, but as he went to take a bite, found it too had changed to gold.
His joy knew no bounds. When he got home, he ordered his servants to set a splendid feast on the table. But then, when he went to eat a piece of bread, it turned to gold. He picked up a chicken leg and took a bite and nearly broke his teeth on it. It too had turned to gold.
Fearing starvation, and not daring to touch his wife or kids, he went back to see Bacchus and begged him to take back his gift. Bacchus told him to go to a certain river, trace the stream to its fountainhead, plunge head and body into the water and wash away his faults and its punishment. Thus Midas learned to hate wealth and splendor.
When the subject of fame, fortune and success comes up, many people still look to the glamorous world of Hollywood. On the screen, right before our eyes, we see living examples of those who have “made it”, of those who are “filthy rich” and world famous because of the film industry.
Some years ago an actress was asked about her early struggles for success and whether or not she had found a certain special happiness in her years of poverty before hitting the world stage. She replied, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor and believe me, rich is better”.
I think that very few of us would disagree with that statement. Poverty is not something people take delight in. But when we read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:3, what He says seems to be the direct opposite. He seems to be saying that happiness is to be found, not in riches, but in poverty. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
There are various ideas as to what Jesus is saying here. As we consider what He is saying, we need to look at what He is not saying. First, He is not talking about material poverty. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the poor”.
Material poverty does not bring spiritual blessing, but neither does material riches. Jesus said that it is often hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. A person can be so caught up in the material things of this world that he can miss God’s spiritual benefits. But while it may be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, the same may be true for the poor person. Materially poor people can be equally materialistic.
This verse is not talking about the materially poor, but also it is not talking about the poor-spirited person. A poor-spirited person is one who lacks drive and enthusiasm for life. David was called a man after God’s own heart and there was not a more ambitious or successful man in all of Israel’s history.
Jesus is not saying blessed are the wimps, or blessed are those with the poor self-image, or blessed are those who are always feeling bad about themselves.
What Jesus meant by poor in spirit was the opposite of being rich in pride. To be poor in spirit is to be spiritually bankrupt before God. It is the mental state of the person who has recognized something of the righteousness and holiness of God, who has seen into the sin and corruption of his own heart and has acknowledged his inability to please God. TO such a person, to the humble person, to the spiritually bankrupt person, to the person who sees his desperate need of God, Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs.