Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
The Wizard of Oz tells everyone’s story in one way or another because all of us feel incomplete, as if we need something more. So we understand our life stories as quests for that something, whatever we think it is. The Scarecrow sought a brain, the Lion, courage, the Tin Man, a heart, and of course, Dorothy just wanted to go home.
When they found the Great Oz , a bumbling old man behind a curtain operating a special effects machine, the apparent imposter nevertheless gave them exactly what they sought simply by holding up a mirror to their story of the road. In critical situations, the Scarecrow exercised good judgment, the Lion, nerve to stand up for his friends, and the Tin Man, deep feeling. Dorothy found that in her love for her family, she never left them after all. The journey was their destiny, revealing that they had what they most wanted all along. The Yellow Brick Road was their kingdom.
By admitting that they possess nothing of their own accord, by coming before God empty-handed and pleading like the prodigal for whatever little God will give, the poor in spirit realize the smallest blessings they already had are all they ever really wanted. Perhaps having once thought they knew what they wanted, they eventually find it empty. So they come before God asking what God wants for them. They joyfully receive whatever God gives as the goal of their quest only because God gives it. Then they realize that God, not they, know what they most need.
Then God gives them the kingdom, the whole shebang, or at least the whole shebang from their perspective because to the poor in spirit, every breath, every bite of food, every gesture of kindness is everything. Every good thing is a gift, and all gifts come from God.
Sitting under a maple tree by a reservoir after an October afternoon hike, my beloved Wanda with her Wordsworthian soul exclaimed over the light brightening the leaves, the shimmering water, and the feel of the breeze. Then she took my hand and said, “I love it when I look around and find myself in a place where I realize that there is absolutely nowhere on earth I would rather be.” Romantic words, yes, but all the more so because of her gratitude for the gift, her poverty of spirit.
Like Wanda by the water, the poor in spirit already arrived in the heaven they seek just in the asking and in the gratitude poverty prepares. If like the rich young man, one approaches God’s Son claiming much in this life but seeking fire insurance for the next, one does not come in poverty, and the kingdom of heaven is out of reach (Mark 10:17-31).
Come claiming nothing, thankful for every gift, and you already have everything. You can enjoy life in God’s kingdom now.
Jesus and the Rich Young Man Meet at a Fork in the Road