“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6: 20
This beatitude always puzzled me. How could those oppressed by poverty, injustice, lack of clean water, housing and employment be blessed. I thought that maybe the people who were last in this world would be first when the reign of God is fully realized on earth. While that is true, in Africa I have learned that there are other blessings given to the poor even as they suffer unimaginable poverty.
We have met so many people here who live on less than one dollar a day. Families inhabit very small dwellings with tin roofs and dirt floors, no running water, and in some cases no electricity. These settlements are littered with garbage and human waste runs through the streets. The stench can be overwhelming. Despite such deplorable conditions, every person we met testified to their strong faith in God. God is the rock on whom they build their lives. Jesus and the good news are the source of their hope when all seems so utterly hopeless. People with barely enough food to feed their families fed us. People whose daily lives were about surviving took the time to share their stories with us. Everywhere we go, people smile, wave and greet us warmly with Jambo Sana, Swahili for Hello, and they really mean it!
Maybe the blessing the poor now possess in abundance is that they have absolute faith that Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with them. They have no other options but total dependency on God. What a blessing that must be. This journey will soon end for me and I will return to a life where all my basic needs and many of my wants will be satisfied. Unlike the poor in Africa and around the globe, I will have to work at being dependent on God and resist the temptation to see my blessings as a product of my own efforts, I hope I can do that. If I can, maybe Jesus’ words will finally make sense to me.
Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of God