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Her Name Is Ptōchos (Digging into Matt. 5:3)

Introduction…
I little summary for those who don’t want to read the whole post.

As I dig into this Matthew 5:3 and look a the depth of the words Jesus used in the context of the world view of his day, in the context of who he was speaking to and in the context of the language that was used to communicate His truth, I see a brilliant picture emerging. I translate this verse in today’s thoughts as:

Blissful and fortunate are you who see how powerless, destitute and needy you are to the core of your being. Yours is far beyond this puny and fleeting world. You get the kingdom where God lives. The world may always see you as poor and powerless but God will make you rich and powerful in ways that are eternal and not fleeting. Your name is ptōchos (neediness), I will fill you with the universe.

If you are curious as to how I came to this interpretation please read on…

Bible Study

It seems to me that goal of everyone in the world is to be wealthy.  In one way or another, we spend most of our time and energy throughout our lives figuring out ways to become rich in health, relationships, significance, power and of course money. Parenthetically, the Bible emphatically states,
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Through it’s actions the world states, “And these three things are pursued: health, power and money. But the greatest of these is money.” Throughout history, in one form of capital or another, from the world’s perspective, money has been the ticket to almost every other form of wealth.

Enter Jesus. Against the backdrop of a world in ruthless pursuit of riches, Jesus has the audacity to say,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

This is not just a quaint little abstract phrase that looks good on a Christian bookmark. This is a radical, even revolutionary statement made by Jesus that flies in the face of our common world view. If you let this statement sink in a little, you will find that it is not the kind of statement that can be easily dismissed. Perhaps unpacking this verse a little will help us see just how crazy radical it is.

Blessed – μακάριος ( makários )

The Greek word Jesus used for “blessed” in the verse is μακάριος ( makários ). After careful study of this word, I translate it in English as a dramatic and extended form of the following: Blissful, Fortunate, Happy. It does translate to “happy,” however it seems to be more dramatic than that. There is another common Greek word for happy (makár). Makários is an extended form of this word. I think of it as “BIG, PROLONGED HAPPINESS.” Aristotle apparently contrasted  makários with the word ἐνδεής (endeēs), which is defined as lacking or needy. If this is true then we can observe that through the world language of the day there was a dramatic contrast between one who was blissfully blessed and one who was needy. Seems like a duh right? No one then or now would consider someone who is lacking or needy to be fortunate, blissful or even happy. Hopefully it is helpful for us grasp the scope of blessing Jesus is communicating to us as we see how this word is used in the context of Matthew 5:3.

Poor – πτωχός (ptōchos)

The Greek word Jesus used for poor is πτωχός (ptōchos). This is another dramatic word used by Jesus which comes from the Greek root word πτοέω (ptosso) which means to crouch. This word is the image of a needy, helpless and afflicted beggar without wealth, influence, position or power.

Spirit – πνεῦμα (pneuma)

Here Jesus used the word πνεῦμα (pneuma). The Greek word pneuma is rooted in the Greek word  πνέω (pneō) which means “to breath.”  The word Pneuma has been used to describe the Holy Spirit. However, it is possible that Jesus is not using this word in that context here. In this case, Jesus seems to be refer to the core of a person; something deeper than the physical body. He seems be be referring to the very essence of an individual.

Heavens – οὐρανός (ouranos)

The Greek word οὐρανός (ouranos) as it is used in the Matthew 5:3 is literally translated as the heavens: 1) sky, starry host, the universe, 2) Where God dwells. While it is possible that in this verse Jesus is referring to the actual kingdom of heaven where God dwells, I also think it is equally possible that Jesus is also communicating the concept of some huge, the universe. Both would make his point valid.

Putting is all together.

As I dig into this verse and look a the depth of the words Jesus used in the context of the world view of his day, in the context of who he was speaking to and in the context of the language that was used to communicate His truth, I see a brilliant picture emerging. I translate this verse in today’s thoughts as:

Blissful and fortunate are you who see how powerless, destitute and needy you are to the core of your being. Yours is far beyond this puny and fleeting world. You get the kingdom where God lives. The world may always see you as poor and powerless but God will make you rich and powerful in ways that are eternal and not fleeting. Your name is ptōchos (neediness), I will fill you with the universe.

Final Thoughts

It seems to me that goal of everyone in the world is to be wealthy.  In one way or another, we spend most of our time and energy throughout our lives figuring out ways to become rich in health, relationships, significance, power and of course money. What is most disturbing to me is that even in the midst of owning and acknowledging my own spiritual poverty I still slip into the pursuit of wealth and power. I may disguise this pursuit and say that I only I want money, power and influence so that I am make a difference for Christ. I may even try to live the life of a “humble spiritual leader,” but secretly I really want power and influence.

Perhaps I am not alone in this issue. Does anyone ever want to admit that they are lacking in anything. However, in truth, at the core of our being, we were made to need God. Whether we are rich or poor is irrelevant in this context. In God’s eyes we are all impoverished.  When we come to grips with our neediness and bring our empty cup to God, it is then he fills it…and when God fills us it is not with small insignificant things. He pours the kingdom of heaven into our souls.

God…help us all see just how needy we are for You and help not choose lesser things to fill void of our impoverished souls. Amen…Amen.

 

Study Notes/Resources.

Please don’t freak out at my using Her in the title. I simply used it to refer to the church…the bride of Christ, May we all see our neediness.

  • The Englishmens Greek New Testament, Zondervan
  • Strongs Exhaustive Concordance
  • The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament – http://pdfcast.org/pdf/1278356092
  • Vines Bible Dictionary
  • http://www.blueletterbible.org
  • http://strongsnumbers.com/
  • http://www.etymonline.com
  • http://www.biblegateway.com

 

 

 

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