Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

blessed are the poor in spirit

Too Many Rules in the Church

During a conversation about hurdles people may have with the Church, someone expressed frustration over “all the rules of the Church.”

Another complained about the number of “rules” the Church has and said, “I don’t think if I miss church on Sunday, I’m going to go to hell.”

The Church says it’s an obligation to go to Church on Sunday(s).

Some people disagree with this “law.” 

Others have disagreements with other “laws” of the church, but my concern is a much deeper one than mere disagreements.

My concern is how Pride sneaks its way into people’s hearts.

These could be the same people who say to themselves, “I’m a good person. I don’t need to go to church to be saved.”

Is it possible that in this state of mind, you are judging yourself and deeming yourself worthy of a glorious crown you can’t earn?

In Mother Teresa’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, one thing that stood out was how humble she was. She called herself unworthy of the award. Many Saints considered themselves unworthy of the crown but strove to follow Jesus in order to be judged worthy. 

What Would Jesus Do?

I’ve heard more than one person call these rules and laws as man-made. So, what did Jesus say about these “man-made” laws? 

He said a lot. 

For Jesus, the “spirit of the law” was of paramount importance. Throughout His ministry, Jesus emphasized the intentions, motivations, and the heart’s condition rather than just the external observance of the Mosaic Law. He sought to elucidate the more profound spiritual principles underlying the Law.

Jesus often rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. They were meticulous about the external observance of the Law but neglected its weightier, more profound spiritual matters. 

Let me highlight a few statements:

In Matthew 22:35-40 we have a beautiful statement by Jesus on the law. 

He was asked by a lawyer, “What is the greatest commandment in the law.”

Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Too Many Rules in the Church

One of my personal favorite lines of scripture is in Paul’s letter to Romans 13:8-10.

“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. 

Paul literally writes it twice, redundantly, in the same paragraph, for the people in the back! 

Love fulfills the law.

Lots of laws speak in the Scriptures, right? 

I mean, the first five books of the Bible are often called the Law.

Let's go back to the big guy, Jesus

One of the most comprehensive statements Jesus said about the law was in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:17-20.

17 “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Wait, so He didn’t come to get rid of laws? I’m pausing here for effect so you can read that again. 

18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.

Wait, not a dot from the law will pass?

19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

Here, the actual judge, Jesus, tells you explicitly how to go to hell. 

He mentions it often, but we, including myself here, historically and casually ignore what He says about hell. 

We like the warm and fuzzy parts. 

Jesus mentions in his parables and often explicitly what it takes to not get into heaven. 

Matthew 7:21–23

21 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 

A critical and often overlooked verse from Jesus himself is seen in Matthew 18:5–6

5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Sounds serious!

Jesus said it’s better to be drowned than to create Skandalon. 

The Greek word used here is where we get the word scandal. 

Parents, teachers, leaders, and influencers are easiest to fall into this terrible sin, scandal, mainly because of their influence. 

We all have influence. Some have tremendous influence over their family, their friends, and their colleagues. 

Outspoken and public opposition to church laws, or what some would describe as man-made, is a seed planted in the minds of those they influence. 

Whether they want them to or not, others follow their thinking and their lead. This is where the term scandal comes into play. 

  1. Be more mindful of your words and actions. When you’re frustrated with laws, pray about them. 
  2. When you don’t understand the dogma of the church, be like Peter in John 6:68, who didn’t understand the Bread of Life discourse (John 6) but knew that Jesus was the Messiah and followed Him, not fully understanding His teachings. 
  3. Find a spiritual mentor. They help tremendously in navigating the complexities of your spiritual life. Most of the saints had one, so that’s a great example to follow.

Wrapping Things Up

What is the will of God as it is written?

The Commandments are common ground. Jesus agrees as He has stated so.

As someone who has broken every commandment, I’m fortunate to have lived long enough to understand them. 

Where does the church Sunday obligation come from? 

The Church teaches that the Commandment “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”) is fulfilled by attending Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. Furthermore, we are taught to rest from unnecessary work on Sundays in order to honor the Lord’s Day.

So, while we don’t observe the traditional Sabbath on Saturday as the day of rest and worship, we celebrate Sunday as the Lord’s Day in a manner that fulfills the spirit of the Sabbath commandment.

Will you go to hell if you miss Mass on Sunday but instead see a 3-hour Taylor Swift Movie?

The truth is, I sure hope not because I’ve missed my share of Sunday Masses for reasons less stellar than a Taylor Swift Movie. Lucky for all of us, I’m not the judge. 

Neither is the church. 

It’s in our creed.

It’s Jesus. 

Now, even a casual observer can see if the priority to elevate God and His Laws above EVERYTHING, “with all your heart, soul, and mind,” on one particular day, one hour, is being displayed.

Check your pride. The pride you have of judging yourself worthy. The pride that says, “I’m a good person,” so good I will be in heaven. The pride that may cause the terrible sin of scandal to those around you and those you love the most.

That pride may have you hearing the declaration from our Lord on the day of judgment.

Matthew 7:22–23

22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 

23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’