If my knees ever give out, I may give up on photography. Thankfully, I currently have good knees and also a real enjoyment for photography. I learned early on that the best pictures were taken on my knees. Get low and close is the rule for taking pictures of children, pets, flowers, and many other living things. If I want to take a picture of a butterfly, I put on my close-up (90 mm macro) lens and position myself at or below a flower that is being frequented by the creatures and wait. A similar process is needed to hear and understand what Jesus teaches. You get low and close. You position yourself and you wait. You still yourself with the understanding that God’s word is a living thing.
I noticed for the first time this week that Jesus’ most important group of teachings, the Beatitudes (Sermon on Mount in Matthew and Sermon on the Plane in Luke) occur immediately after a period in which Jesus is healing and traveling in the midst of common people. Those who were with Jesus when he sat down to teach, already were low, humble, and waiting with expectation. When he said, “Blessed are the poor,” he was mostly surrounded by those who were poor. To those bowed down to meekness by their circumstances, he said, “you are already in position to inherit the earth.”
Because we aren’t there, in the same place as those crowds, we are reluctant to consider Jesus’ promises of blessing as something that is already happening. Those who were blessed in Jesus’ sermon were the same people who saw the blessings of his healing touch and his compassionate lifestyle. We tend to put these blessings up in heaven. Those who encountered Jesus looked for his blessing to be right now, on this earth. We have a lot to learn from them.
When Jesus says "Blessed are the poor...," he isn't commanding us to give things away and make ourselves poor (he does that elsewhere). He is instead saying that the poor already are blessed with spiritual understandings. We need to learn to position ourselves on their level. The best way to do this is by ministry with the poor. This involves listening and discovering by cooperation how they are already blessed.