Eckhart Tolle author of A New Earth reviewed chapter 2 online with Oprah quoting Jesus who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs will be the kingdom of heaven.”
Tolle and Oprah discussed the illusion of ownership, identification, awakening, facilitating an inner shift, and personal transformation. All powerful truths and concepts worthy of our time and attention.
Oprah said: “You talk about the illusion of ownership on page 42. You say “The ego tends to equate having with being and lives through comparison. And you use a quote from the Bible that Jesus said. …What does poor in spirit mean?”
Tolle replied: “No inner baggage, no identifications.”
Oprah thoughtfully still pondering on the matter inquisitively inquired further, “I never knew that’s what poor in spirit means. How did you come to that interpretation of what poor in spirit means?”
Tolle pulled from his personal spiritual journey and elaborated saying, “There was a time after I went through this inner shift. It must have been three years later, I was visiting my mother and she had a New Testament on her shelf. I picked it up and started reading. I could suddenly see the truths that were hiding there and that in many cases, the conventional interpretation was a superficial one of what Jesus had said. And that was one of the things I immediately saw when He said ‘poor in spirit’. I realized its to do with not carrying stuff inside so that your spirit is very light. It has no burden. He was talking about awakening and living in that free state of consciousness. Wonderful to suddenly be able to read it and suddenly it all makes sense, which before it hadn’t made sense.”
I agree with Tolle that spiritually we must be “ready” and at a time in our life’s journey when we are open to truth and divine revelation. Indeed such divine intervention and encounters can occur whether we are ready or not, after which our hearts surprisingly are suddenly and amazingly opened. For Tolle he was in a state of spiritual pursuit and hungering for divine insight, inquisitively pursuing the mysteries of life.
Assuredly religious and traditional interpretations can sadly many times miss the mark of what Jesus intended to impart by way of truth and revelation. Tolle accurately alluded to this calling some “conventional interpretation” to be “superficial”.
Jesus Himself said to the Pharisees, who to many were excessively religious and rigid, “You make the Word of God of none effect through your tradition, which you have delivered: and many such things do you” (Mark 7:13). Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for removing the power from the Word of God by burdening the people with lofty traditions to adhere to, which disconnected them from the joyous experience of worshipping and serving the living God.
At one point Jesus got so mad and frustrated with the Pharisees, He sternly told them, “Your father is the devil” (John 8:44). “He that is of God hears God’s Words: you therefore hear them not, because you are not of God” (8:47).
The scribes and Pharisees often tried to entangle Jesus in religious debates, wherein they sought to enforce their traditions. Jesus did not hesitate to confront them saying, “Why do you transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3) “This people draws near unto Me with their mouth, and honors Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men” (15:8-9).
Often sadly religious teachings are nothing more than traditions and commandments of men, void of the love and life of God. Yet unsuspecting people who don’t take time to read the Bible for themselves are easily seduced and swayed by such self-righteous Pharisees. Clothed in the trappings of religiosity many teachers and venerated dignitaries are engulfed in adhering to traditional ceremony, being more enamored with form than the living God.
Having identified with their religious ideology, affiliation, and tradition they have thereby prevented themselves from wholeheartedly and freely drawing near unto God. Any form or spiritual occurrence that does match their tradition or experience, they demonize and reject. Yet in so doing it is their very own souls they are forsaking as they build for themselves a memorial to the deadness of their own religious tradition.
God however would have humanity to “be established in the present truth” and forever progressing spiritually going from glory to glory (see 2 Peter 1:12).
Most denominations however prefer to build a traditional monument to their founder rather than to Christ the ultimate head of the church and author of life. In so doing they replace Christ as the head and builder of His church universal, deify themselves in exclusivity, alienate spiritual seekers in their community, and cease to look unto the “author and finisher of their faith” preferring form over substance.
Jesus however is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23)and author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2); without which our faith is shipwreck and divine influence severed as we seek to exalt ourselves religiously.
Christ alone can and will build His church (Matthew 16:18); by the pattern, protocol, and power of His Spirit, not the leading of a man-made denomination. Whenever a man, ministry, church, or denomination seeks to govern and guide a move of God; rest assured God Himself will leave them. God will never go where He is not acknowledged, neither needed.
Individually I have experienced religion that is cold as ice and not nice. Occasionally I have thought to network and link up with larger religious organizations thinking that collectively together we could have a greater impact. Upon calling some of these “established” organizations however, I have found their secretaries and bureaucracies to be cold and alienating.
One instance in particular, I phoned a very large worldwide ministry based out of Orlando to make an inquiry. Instead of being greeted warmly, I was asked abruptly, “Who are you with?” Sensing the interrogator tone on the other end, I humorously replied, “J E S U S” spelling out each letter by name.
The secretary was no amused or phased in the least and sternly held to her organizational hierarchal disposition, asking the same question again being entirely disinterested in me as a person preferring to label me as an organization.
Thankfully Jesus and the Holy Spirit are bigger and beyond religious labels and forms. Jesus walked through walls and walked on water. The Holy Spirit showed up and moved in numerous forms – like a gentle dove and as wind and fire. God always shocks and surpasses your theology, often violating it entirely.
Hence there is always division when spirituality and religion collide. The “established” religion of the day always feels threatened when spirituality comes with a new awakening for humanity. The initial response therefore is usually to demonize and belittle the new revelation, instead of investigate and examine it further.
This is the knee jerk tendency or proud religiosity, which is entirely self-centered and fixated with me. What’s in it for me? How does it effect “my church”, “my offerings”, “my doctrine”, “my understanding”, “my interpretation”, etc. The ironic and self-righteous tendency however is to go beyond the “my” and “I” with which religion often does what it wants, interprets as it wants; but in the process puts God’s name on it in an attempt to validate and give itself credibility.
This is why when Jesus came His greatest opposition and enemies were from the religious circles. Sinners, prostitutes, conniving businessmen, and foul talking fishermen all loved and liked Jesus. It was the religious crowd full of manipulation and spiritual subtlety that Jesus couldn’t stand and abruptly opposed, immediately exposing their own insecurity.
Had the religious been genuinely spiritual, they would have sat and listened to Jesus to see if what He was saying was true and of spiritual benefit to them. Instead they quantified everything in monetary and self-effacing terms, preferring to protect what was theirs instead of embracing what was coming from God Himself.
Religion sells God, but is void of God’s divine life. Religion is subtly about projecting self-righteous attitudes, instilling fear in followers, enhancing one’s shallow ego with self-exaltation, building its denomination, protecting its affiliation, and disseminating its own ideological persuasion.
I was utterly shocked when I lived in Brooklyn Heights, where the Jehovah Witness kingdom halls are headquartered. I often talked to and discussed spiritual matters with “the witnesses” on Montague Street. When I questioned them about Jesus’ exhortation to take care of the poor from Matthew chapter 25, they said, “We don’t do that. God will take care of the poor. We just preach the Word.”
I in turn questioned the validity of the “Word” they preach, it being a New World translation. I then mentioned “to him who knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). “But he who has this world’s goods, and sees his brother have need, and shuts up his bowels of compassion from him, how can the love of God dwell in him?” (1 John 3:17).
It was then the “witnesses” were silenced and walked away in shame. Certainly I myself have often been without and perhaps with a bit but neglected those suffering around me. Nevertheless I don’t embrace creating a religious doctrine that alienates the poor and suffering, which relinquishes the divine and greatest commandment to love and lift a hurting humanity.
“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do it” (Proverbs 3:27).
Such man-made doctrines are often legalistic and demonic. The apostle Paul mentioned the doctrine advocated by the Vatican which forbids priests to marry and betroth a wife. “Now the Spirit speaks expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils; speaking lies and hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God has created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
Jesus is about love, life, and spiritual enjoyment. Religion and the devil are about enslavement, control, and death. Throughout the early church era as evidenced throughout the book of Acts, whenever the religious council and establishment could not control the apostles, they sought to threaten, beat, imprison, and eventually kill them.
Jesus said it well, “The thief [speaking of the devil and religion] comes to steal, kill, and to destroy: but I have come that you might have life, and life more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Religion deeply entrenched in itself and its own preservation doesn’t mind if its interpretation is entirely useless, outdated, or utterly dead. As long as it exalts someone’s head, they will fight to the bitter end to preserve it. Because for them forms are more important than joyfully and spiritually experience life.
Hence when discarding one’s own inner baggage and identifications, the first place we often must begin is with religiosity and the way we often erroneously relate to our own loving Creator. Remember God will not allow anyone, including a self-righteous denomination, put Him in a box. God is bigger than your ideological, religious, and mental box.
Therefore when cultivating poverty in spirit to attain the riches of heaven, begin by stripping yourself of dead religion and mean, manipulative associations.
Upon discovering your dependence first and foremost on God alone, thereafter you can embrace others in the family of faith and find for yourself a spiritual home.
Concerning remaining poor in spirit, we do well to remember the words of the apostle Paul who said he was both “full” and yet “hungry” (Philippians 4:12). The British revivalist Smith Wigglesworth who raised several people from the dead and ministered healing to countless sick folks said he was content with his own discontentment.
David a man after God’s own heart, though being king and possessing innumerable things, cried: “As the deer panteth for the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night” (Psalm 42:1-3).
“Now also when I am old and gray headed, Oh God, forsake me not; until I have showed thy strength unto this generation, and thy power to everyone that is to come” (Psalm 71:18).
Like Tolle shift inwardly, connect spiritually, and live miraculously.