And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain, and when He was set down, His disciples came unto Him. And opening His mouth, He taught them, saying: Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5: 1-3
The First Beatitude is another grossly misread and misunderstood verse, with the misunderstanding being a recent phenomenon, spurred by a conscientious perversion of the meaning of the verse by Marxist infiltrators beginning in the 20th century. And now most especially by Pope Francis Bergoglio, who is the quintessential fulfillment of St. John Eudes’ stern admonition:
“The most evident mark of God’s anger, and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world, is manifest when He permits His people to fall into the hands of a clergy who are more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. They abandon the things of God to devote themselves to the things of the world and, in their saintly calling of holiness, they spend their time in profane and worldly pursuits. When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people and is visiting His most dreadful wrath upon them.” ——Saint John Eudes
Most people read this verse and see the words “blessed” and “poor” and think that Jesus is saying that poor people are morally superior to rich people. You can see why Marxists, like Bergoglio, jumped all over this verse. They have twisted it into a class warfare battle cry. Other people see the words “blessed” and “poor” and also the prepositional modifier “in spirit”, have no idea what to make of it, glaze over, start thinking about football or Zumba class, and just smile and nod like the Stepford Baptized Pagan-zombies that they are.
I’m a huge fan of punctuation. Especially properly-utilized apostrophes. But I’m also a fan of ellipses and the humble comma.
“Let’s eat Grandma!” or, “Let’s eat, Grandma!”
PUNCTUATION. SAVES. LIVES.
I think that we can understand the First Beatitude with far more ease if we slip a set of “here comes the kicker pregnant pause” ellipses in between the subject, “the poor”, and the prepositional phrase, “in spirit.” Thus:
Blessed are the poor . . . in spirit.
Does that help? Our Lord isn’t saying that poor people are by definition morally superior to rich people. Not at all. Common sense tells us that that is simply not true. What He is saying is that a person who is detached from their wealth and is willing to take the First Commandment literally and seriously, put God first, and “push their chips all-in”, to use a poker metaphor, is truly blessed. So, given this, ANYONE within the wealth spectrum, rich or poor, can possess this virtue. This also means that anyone within the wealth spectrum can LACK this virtue. There are two separate classifications that we need to address and combine in order to understand this dynamic: poor in spirit and poor in fact, and their antipodes, rich in spirit and rich in fact. If we form a matrix of these characteristics, there are four possible output combinations. Let’s go through each.
Poor in spirit and poor in fact:
This is a person who does not have any great wealth, but is also content and still maintains a spirit of generosity and gratitude. This condition is exemplified by the parable of the Widow’s mite in Mark 12: 41-44. The poor widow gave the smallest tithe in absolute terms, but it was greater than the tithes of the rich because, “she of her want cast in all she had, even her whole living.” The widow was detached even from what little she had, even though on a percentage basis it far, far exceeded what the rich tithed. The widow was both poor in fact, and poor in spirit.
Rich in spirit and poor in fact:
This is the person who lives beyond their means and is preoccupied with the APPEARANCE and ACQUISITION of wealth. (Cough, cough. Ring any bells? Ahem.) This is the person who leverages himself out the gazoo so that he can have the 4000 square foot house and the luxury car . . . even though he only makes $65k per year. This would also be the welfare denizen who scoffs at honest work and lives off of the government, but has a 55″ LCD TV and PlayStation, and has multi-thousand dollar hair extensions and intricately manicured fingernails. No. Way. Girl. I did NOT just go there. Oh yes I did.
Rich in spirit, rich in fact:
This is the rich person who is very much attached to their wealth, and places the preservation of their wealth as their top priority. I did an interview on Peter Schiff’s streamed-to-video radio show not long after I shut down Barnhardt Capital Management in late ARSH 2011, which Schiff has since removed from YouTube. But, this is the transcript of the exchange that speaks directly to this topic:
Schiff: Let me ask you, your call for a strike, what exactly does that entail? If people wanted to follow what you’re saying, how would we have a strike? What would people do?
Ann: Close all of your securities accounts, bring all of your money home and stop trading all markets: futures, stocks, everything. Man up, act like you’ve got a pair and shut it down.
Schiff: Well, that would put me out of business. I mean, if all of my customers would close down their . . . .
And there you have it. Peter Schiff, like almost everyone else in our culture, can’t fully acknowledge the objective reality of what is happening, and thus can not respond in a fully virtuous way because he is, first and foremost, attached to his wealth and simply can not bring himself to push his wealth “all-in” in service to justice and truth. In other words, he can’t get past the First Commandment. If we take him at his word in the quote above, he will not tell his clients that they are at risk, recommend that they liquidate, or shut down his firm because he is attached to and has defined himself by his firm and the wealth that it generates for him.
Now please understand the distinction here: Mr. Schiff’s firm and the wealth it has amassed Mr. Schiff is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself – no more so than my firm and the wealth that it generated for me over the years was “bad”. Not only are these things not necessarily bad, they actually have the potential to be good! What IS bad is the inordinate ATTACHMENT and unwillingness to LAY DOWN that “good thing” in service to a GREATER GOOD, which in this case is justice and truth, which are constitutive qualities of God Himself. I was willing to lay my “good thing” down because I understood the First Beatitude and the promise of Christ that in laying down my “good thing” I might later inherit a far better thing, namely a wee little corner of the Kingdom of Heaven. As a trained arbitrageur, I recognize a good swap when I see it. Wink.
This is what Christ meant when He said, “And again I say to you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered very much, saying: Who then can be saved? And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19: 24-27
Our Lord isn’t saying that the rich are intrinsically evil purely because they are rich. That is what the Marxists want you to believe. He is saying that it is EXTREMELY difficult for wealthy people to maintain DETACHMENT from their wealth, and the richer people become, the more attached they tend to be to their wealth. But He goes on to say that there is hope! All things are possible through Him! Let’s all pray that Peter Schiff, and all wealthy people of good will, by the power of the Holy Ghost, are able to detach themselves from their wealth and shove that camel through that needle, because IT CAN BE DONE.
Poor in spirit, rich in fact:
Very simply, this is a person who is at any level of financial comfort above “poor” who is willing to push their wealth “all-in” if that is what is required to follow Christ fully. (The truly blessed then learn that The Van Down By The River not only isn’t so bad, it can be the best thing ever. But that requires a huge leap of faith. Trust me, I know.)