Christ’s New Sermon

Epiphany 4 Monday

Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are those who are spiritually poor; for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

While this sermon is kind and sweet for the Christians who are his students, it is sour and intolerable for the Jews and their great saints. For right at the beginning, he gives them a hard knock with these words, rejects and condemns their doctrine, and preaches the opposite. In fact, he curses their life and doctrine, as Luke 6:24-26 shows. For this was the sum of their doctrine: If a person prospered here on earth, he was blessed and on good terms with God. And everything
they did was aimed at this: that God should give them enough here on earth and let them no lack anything, if they are good and serve God, as David says about them in Psalm 144:12-15. Christ opens his mouth against this and says: “Something other than prospering here on earth is needed”– as if he wanted to say: “My dear disciples, when you are to preach among the people, you will find that they all teach and believe that those who are rich, powerful, etc., are blessed, while those who are poor and miserable are rejected and condemned before God”…Even today, this is the faith of the whole world…It is the most widespread belief or religion on earth with which all people remain according to flesh and blood. In fact, they are unable to consider anything else blessedness. This is why Christ here delivers a new sermon to the Christians: They are to be blessed even if they are miserable, suffer poverty, and must here on earth do without wealth, power, honor, and good times. They are to have a different, an eternal reward: They will have enough in the kingdom of heaven. But you say: “What? Are you saying that all Christians must be poor? Is no Christian allowed to have money, possessions, honor, power, etc.? Or what are the rich to do, e.g., the princes, lords, and kings? Must they all let go of their possessions and honor? Must they purchase the kingdom of heaven from the poor, as some have taught?” Answer: No.
Christ does not tell us to purchase something from the poor, but to be poor ourselves, and to be found among such poor, if we want to have the kingdom of heaven. For it says here: “Blessed are the poor,” but he also adds: “spiritually poor.” Therefore, it is not enough simply to be physically poor and have no money and possessions. For outwardly having money, goods, land, and people is not unjust in itself; it is, rather, God’s gift and order. No one is blessed because he is a beggar and does not own anything. Christ calls for being “spiritually poor”…This is, then, about using all temporal goods and bodily necessities while we live here like a guest in a foreign place where he spends the night and moves on in the morning. That guest does not need more than food and a bed, 1 Timothy 6:7-8…So it is for the Christians: It is from God that you have temporal possessions to sustain you in this life. God does not resent your using them to fill your body. But
you must not attach your heart to them, as if you wanted to live on earth forever, but must always move on and think of a different, higher, and better treasure that is yours and shall forever remain yours…No one understands this unless he is a true Christian first. For both this teaching and all that follow are nothing but fruits of faith which the Holy Spirit himself must create in the heart. Now, where faith is not, the kingdom of heaven also will not be, and spiritual poverty, meekness, etc. will not follow. Instead, nothing but scraping and greed, arguments and strife because of temporal possessions will remain. This is why his words are lost on such worldly hearts. They will never learn nor experience what
spiritual poverty is; they will never believe what he says and promises about the kingdom of heaven.

St. Louis ed., 7:355-361.

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