I’m entertained by my three year old daughter when she attempts to walk around the house in my size 12 shoes. She clumsily takes one stumbling step at a time while also making sure I’m watching her daring feat. It’s only amusing because her tiny feet are no match for my shoes. She can’t fill them. I’m much bigger than she is.
It’s so much fun to observe childish behavior from the perspective of grown-up dad. Because while I think I have it all figured out as the smarter, wiser, more mature adult, I’ve discovered that sometimes my three year old models what real it really looks like to follow Jesus. She knows that she needs me. Even as independent as she attempts to be, she has no problem admitting that she needs me.
I’m stuck on the first “Beatitude” that Jesus presented in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’ sermon on the mount is one of my favorite passages of Scripture to study. I’ve read it, taught it, preached it, and I still learn something fresh every time I encounter it (that’s the beauty of God’s Word!). And one of the clearest ways I’ve learned to uncover what Jesus‘ meant by saying “poor in spirit” is to ask the question, “Who am I trying to measure up to?”
We live in a world dying to compete. Maybe the competition isn’t on the court or the field; however, we compete with an internal desire to be better than those around us. “I want a nicer car than my coworkers.” “I love that my yard is better maintained than my neighbor.” “I must have a bigger TV than my friends.” “My kid is smarter than your kid.”
And while vain competition makes us feel good, it provides a sinful model for following Jesus. (Click to Tweet that)
Subconsciously we are all tempted to think that going to church more than most people, reading my Bible more this year than I did last year, and giving more of my time and money than anyone else are all measures for spiritual growth. But they are only deceptions that develops pride. The only way to follow Jesus is to measure up for Him and His perfect standard.
Jesus once told a story about two very different men who were praying to God in Luke 18:10-14. “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
When we realize our ultimate inability to measure up to Jesus on our own, we are just beginning to understand what it means to be “poor in spirit”. Measuring up to others may amuse you; but, it will not provide access to the Kingdom of Heaven.