We are already hearing talk of candidates for the 2020 US Presidential election. One of the key platform issues in any election is economics. Given that reality, I doubt Jesus would have a chance at being President. Or at least, he would need to find a better speech writer. After all, who’s going to elect a messianic candidate who starts out his stump speech with words like “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? (Matthew 5:3; ESV) That’s a far cry from the Herbert Hoover’s 1928 Presidential campaign slogan, “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”
John R. W. Stott paraphrases “the poor in spirit” as “spiritually bankrupt”. Since when is bankruptcy ever a good thing, especially to be touted as a political campaign promise?! Yet Jesus calls those who are poor in spirit “blessed.” Why is that?
The poor in spirit are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. The citizens of heaven’s kingdom are humble of heart, not haughty. As with all truly humble people, they do not even know they are humble. Their point of reference is Jesus, not themselves. They realize they are greatly dependent on him. They are like the little children who come to Jesus for blessing, not self-sufficient grownups (See Matthew 19:13-15). They are like the tax collectors and sinners who come to him for healing and cleansing, not self-righteous Pharisees (Matthew 9:9-13). They are like merchants who sell everything to purchase the pearl of great price and follow him, not self-fulfilled rich people (See Matthew 13:45-46; 19:16-30).
You learn a great deal about someone based on their political values and why they vote for this or that candidate for President. You also learn a great deal about someone based on why they decide to follow Jesus. Do we look to him to make us self-sufficient, self-righteous, or self-fulfilled? If so, we’ve cast our vote with the wrong candidate. Jesus pursues poor of spirit votes—those who will ever find their sufficiency, righteousness and fulfillment in him. So, who will you and I cast our vote for? Will it be Jesus for President?
Before you and I answer, we should know that Jesus is not content with being some democratic Savior or even a demigod. As King of kings and Lord of lords, he demands our all-in-all:
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 10:37-39; ESV).
Jesus is not content with merely casting our vote in his honor, but casting everything at his feet, taking up our cross, losing our life, and following him. So, will we cast our vote and life for Jesus?
For more on my work on the beatitudes, see my recent book Beatitudes, Not Platitudes: Jesus’ Invitation to the Good Life, and you can see some interviews I did about the book here and here.
John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove: IVP, 1978), page 39.