Only God Is Great!
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven
Greatness of God
All through the Gospels, Jesus is trying to help us understand that although there is pleasure in material things, in sexual relationships, in many other things that satisfy human appetites, nevertheless there is only one way in which we can be in touch with the ultimate Source of genuine joy, and that is to open ourselves up to God’s Presence in our life.
The Kingdom belongs not to those who want to be self sufficient, but to those who identify their life’s meaning and mission with the Will of God.
In two of the Gospels, Jesus says to his disciples, “I assure you that whoever does not accept the Reign of God like a little child shall not take part in it” (Mk. 10-15). And in today’s Gospel Lesson He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 5:3). Here is Jesus telling us the great secret of life! Jesus is teaching us that if we want to achieve wholeness of life, if we want to be fulfilled human beings, if we want to be blessed in this way, if we want to experience genuine joy, we must accept the Reign of God in a childlike way; we must acknowledge our complete dependence on Him; we must place our complete trust in Him. This means that we not only depend on God for our very life, but we trust in God for the meaning of our life. We cannot hope to become fulfilled, whole persons on our own. Alone, we’re unable to cope. Alone, our life situation is too much for us to handle. Alone, we are constantly at wit’s end. Therefore, we need to acknowledge our inherent weakness. We need to pray to God. We need to depend on God. We need to trust in God like little children. We need to trust in God enough to be able to accept, without reservation, His way of fulfillment. And the incredible paradox is that the more dependent on God we become — the weaker we become, in this sense — the stronger we become.
“Hubris” is a very important Biblical word denoting an exaggerated self-confidence akin to arrogance. In the Garden of Eden story, all Adam and Eve had to do to stay in Paradise was to let God be God. And it was the one thing they would not do. They wanted to trust in their own resources, apart from God. As a result, they could no longer remain in the Garden. They were estranged from God. Hubris: the pride of not letting God be God!. This is not an easy lesson for a society in which a “self-made man” or a “self-made woman” is idealized.
A man brought his boss home for dinner for the first time. The boss was very blustery, very arrogant, very dominating! The little boy in the family stared at his father’s boss for most of the evening, but did not say anything. Finally, the boss asked the little boy, “Why do you keep looking at me like that, sonny?” The little boy answered, “My daddy says you are a self-made man.” The boss beamed and proudly admitted that indeed he was a self-made man. The little boy said, “Well if you are a self-made man, why did you make yourself like that?”
As a formula for living, the “self-made man” or “self-made woman” prescription is disastrous. But often it seems that we have to be knocked down before we get serious about trusting in the “God-made” formula for life. A woman who had recently lost her husband wrote of such an experience. She said:
A sudden loss … a loved one, so dear to me … my body rejects the news with violent motions. Family and neighbors begin to arrive. Arrangements have to be made. Then, the lesson from God: As I stand beside my loved-one, I look up to see faces that I know, but I see with new eyes. I see their pain. I see their lives etched in their faces. I feel compassion for their grief and their heartache. It’s as if God has opened my spiritual eyes and I see familiar faces for the first time — as they really are. God has allowed me a momentary understanding that I have never known before. They came to give me comfort. But God used them to give me so much more.
Some of you are here today because you have individual problems pressing down on you. Some of you are here to be refreshed and renewed in spirit as you get ready for another week of living. Some of you are here because you are feeling the weight of the world’s hurts and you feel that being part of the Community of Faith can alleviate some of the suffering. We all have our needs. But Jesus is saying that our first need is to discover the secret that will give us the strength and the power to deal with personal problems and community problems, both.
Shallow Christians are busy, busy, busy trying to out-run Jesus, out-plan Jesus, out-think Jesus, be independent of Jesus’ teachings:
“If a man wishes to come after Me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross, and begin to follow in My footsteps” (Mt. 16:24). (Are you sure you know what you’re saying, Lord?)
“Unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 18:3). (Are you sure you know what you’re saying, Lord?)
“Whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Mt. 10:37). (Are you sure you know what you’re saying, Lord?)
“If you bring your gift to the altar and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift at the altar, go first to be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Mt. 5:33). (Are you sure you know what you’re saying, Lord?)
“You have heard the command, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ What I say to you is: ‘Anyone who looks lustfully at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his thoughts'” (Mt. 5:28). (Are you sure you know what you’re saying, Lord?)
“My command to you is: love your enemies; pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your Heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:44-45). (Are you sure you know what you’re saying, Lord?)
Unfortunately, in today’s society, human worth is judged largely by the degree to which one can claim self-sufficiency and independence. We see this attitude reflected everywhere. Advertisers, for example, have picked up on this. They sell us their products by identifying them with hero models whose cup of self-sufficiency runneth over:
The Marlboro Man! The picture of independence! A loner! Alone on a hilltop he sits high on his horse etched against a sky that clearly belongs to him and no one else. Who would dare draw near to him?
The Schlitz Man — alone with his pet panther, and full of his own gusto. “Just try to take it away from me!” he challenges the whole world.
Think for a moment! Louis the XIV — the king who said, “I am the State!” Louis XIV — the king who built Versailles! Louis XIV, who was called the “Sun King” because of his glittering, lavish reign. Who was a more powerful king than Louis XIV? Thousands of people had come to his funeral service, filling the cathedral and spilling out into the square beyond. When the Bishop of Paris mounted the pulpit to preach the eulogy for the great “Sun King,” he spoke just four words: “Only God is great!” Then he left the pulpit to continue the service. This is exactly what Jesus is trying to tell us. “Blessed are the poor in spirit …” Blessed are those who live in unconditional, absolute dependence on the greatness of God. For only God is great!
What are your thoughts on this issue? Please leave a comment below.