POOR | 40 Days of Focus, Day 18


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:3 | New International Version) 

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
(Matthew 5:3 | The Message)

When we focus in on aspects of Scripture like the 10 Commandments, it can be easy to think religion is all about following a set of rule and regulation. For the Jews, it wasn’t just the 10 Commandments. All together the Rabbis tallied 613 commands in the Torah. Beyond that they developed their own traditions and practices to act as a sort of “hedge” around the commands so they wouldn’t even come close to breaking them.

For instance, the command to keep the Sabbath Day holy evolved into an elaborate system of regulations concerning how far one could walk, what tasks could be done if absolutely necessary, and trying to define “work” as tightly as possible. Religion became more about rights, rituals, rules, and regulations than it was about relationship – which is what God wanted all along.

We humans sure do put the “mental” in fundamentalism!

The 10 Commandments were given on Mount Sinai. Jesus comes along and delivers his first major sermon on what is today known as the “Mount of Beatitudes.” He doesn’t begin with commands, but blessings. Religion says You’re blessed if you follow these rules. Jesus says You’re blessed. There are no “ifs.” This list of blessings, commonly known as the Beatitudes, are not a checklist for us to adhere to. It’s not telling us how we should be or what we should do. Jesus is looking out at the crowd, seeing the oppressed and the disenfranchised and calling them “Blessed.”

I’m going to address each of the Beatitudes in Enneagram language. If you aren’t familiar with the Enneagram, then go check out my Enneagram page to find out more. According to the Enneagram, there are nine basic personality types, or “false selves,” and each one of us is dominant in one type. And I believe that each Enneagram number finds a blessing and word of encouragement in these Beatitudes.

Jesus begins by pronouncing a blessing on “the poor in spirit.” I’ve never really heard a satisfying explanation of what Jesus meant by that. But when I think of it in Enneagram language it begins to make sense. I believe Jesus speaks this blessing on Enneagram Type Threes – the Performers or Achievers. These are the type of people who put a lot of stock in success, or at least the appearance of success. They are very action driven, and they fear failure and insignificance.

Threes want it all. Threes want to achieve their goals, knock off their to-do list, and look good doing it. They want all the markers of success and status symbols for whatever “in-group” they’re trying to impress. Want an example? Just watch one episode of Parks and Rec. Leslie Knope is a THREE.

Failure can be devastating for a Three. It makes them feel worthless and insignificant. Imposter Syndrome is a big problem for a lot of Threes – everyone thinks you’re better than you really are, and only you know your true failings and faults. It’s a byproduct of their own success and achievement. They knocked it out of the park once, now they have to do it again…and again…and they have to do it bigger and better. It’s a cycle that never ends, but it’s one of their own making. They feel stuck and wish they could break free. No matter what they do, it’s never quite good enough. There is no end.

That’s why I love the way Eugene Peterson phrased it in The Message: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.”

The song “High Hopes” by Panic! At the Disco has become somewhat of a Three anthem. There’s one line repeated a few times that just nails it: “We wanted everything more than everything.” And what’s the promise to those who are “poor in spirit” or “at the end of their rope?” Their’s is the kingdom of heaven. Or again as Peterson puts it: “With less of you there is more of God and his rule.”

The worst thing that can happen to a Three is failure and burnout. But the best thing that can ever happen to a Three is failure and burnout. When everything comes easy to an Achiever, they begin to get an inflated self-image. Threes fear failure and its repercussions, but in many ways they will never find real growth unless they experience failure. Threes have a tendency to believe the lie, “I am only as valuable as my latest success.” Only through failure can Threes begin to correct that lie and experience the truth that “I am loved not for what I do but for who I am.”

The world urges us to believe we are #blessed if we have all the stuff we want. We’ve got to be part of the hustle. We’ve got to grind for what we want.

Jesus says you’re blessed when you give up, when you dare to redefine success according to God’s terms.

Actress/Comedian Lily Tomlin is famous for saying, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Or as Jesus would put it:

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
(Mark 8:35-37)

When you decide to get out before you burn out, when you resolve not to keep up with the Joneses anymore, when you redefine what success means, when you’re at the end of your rope – that’s where you’ll find the Kingdom of Heaven, ready and waiting for you.


Do you struggle to believe you are loved for who you are, not for what you do? Why or why not?

Have you ever experienced real failure or burnout? How did it make you feel? How did you recover from it?

If you were to redefine success according to God’s terms for your life, what would that actually look like? How would your life be different?

GIVE | 40 Days of Focus, Day 15


“You shall not steal.”
(Exodus 20:15)

I doubt many of us are guilty of violating the letter of the law for many of the 10 Commandments. I would say most of us aren’t murderers or adulterers. And most of us are probably not thieves, either. I’m sure most of us, if we realized the cashier at Walmart forgot to scan an item in our cart, would then turn around and go pay for it as soon as we realized the mistake.

But like the others, if we get to the positive intention behind the prohibition, it might reveal a different story. Let’s think of the command like this:

“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
(Matthew 22:21)

When we cheat on our taxes we are stealing from the community. When we withhold our collection from the offering plate we are stealing from the church. When we hold back part of our lives as “off limits” to God we are stealing from God. James reminds us:

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
(James 1:17)

Each of us has been entrusted with a certain amount of material wealth. Everything we have is simply on loan. We brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out. Every blessing if from God and belongs ultimately to him. So what are we doing with our stuff?

Jesus tells a story that puts it all into perspective. If we’re hoarding our stuff, it’s essentially like robbing God. The story, found in Matthew 25, is about a wealthy landowner who goes away on a long journey. He calls his most trusted servants and puts them in charge of some of his wealth. Two of the servants took the wealth and treated it like their master would – putting it to work, investing it, growing it. But the third servant took his master’s money and buried it, keeping it safe, but also keeping it the same. When the master came back he called his servants to account. The servant who buried the money was chastised. The master acted as if his servant has essentially stolen from him.

The US is by far one of the wealthiest nations on earth. Even the poor among us are wealthier than a majority of people around the globe. The question is, what are you doing with the blessings God has given you?

Think back to the story of Abraham. When God first called Abraham he promised to bless him AND that all nations would be blessed because of him. Abraham was blessed to be a blessing. I think the same holds true for us.

Like the servants in the story, we should be asking ourselves what Jesus would do with the possessions we have if they were his. What would Jesus do with that extra bedroom in the house? How would Jesus use your car that seats seven? What would Jesus spend his tax return on?

Jesus spent more time talking about money than any other specific topic. Wealth and poverty factor into most of his parables and a large portion of his teachings. Somehow we’ve managed to ignore most of that so we can sit comfortably in our overpriced, oversized homes and criticize the poor who are just too lazy to work for what they want.

In case we miss Jesus’ point about wealth and poverty, James makes it crystal clear:

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?
(James 2:5-7)

I don’t want to get political with this one, but if raising my taxes a little means that those who are less well off than me can have more access to basic necessities – food, shelter, medical care – then so be it. We live in a system in which the rich are getting richer and the poor are having a harder and harder time getting on their feet. The gap between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest Americans is at an all time high. Charitable donations are down, and a large percentage of our nations leaders want to continue to slash Medicaid and Medicare in order to pay for their tax cuts for the rich.

I’m pointing the finger at myself, too, but less than 5% of Christians in America actually tithe. If every Christian around the world gave at a 10% level, then we could eradicate hunger and provide medical care for virtually everyone. The money is there – it’s just sitting in our bank accounts. And if we aren’t using our possessions in the way God would use them, then we are essentially stealing from God and the poor.

Don’t believe me? I again turn to the book of Malachi:

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the Lord Almighty.
(Malachi 3:8-12)

When we hoard our resources, our time, our talents, our possessions, we are robbing God and breaking the 8th Commandment. This was the sin of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 8). This was the sin of the Rich Fool (Luke 11). This was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). This is why Paul urges us:

Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
(Ephesians 4:28)


Why do you think Jesus talked so much about money and possessions? Why are we so afraid to talk about this in our churches?

What specific ways do you think Jesus would use your house? your car? your bank account? your free time? your closet? your pantry?

Do you agree that not giving is the same as stealing? Why or why not?