By Alex Florez
The upside-down nature of the kingdom reframes our understanding of human struggles.
Since becoming a follower of Jesus at age 17, I’ve read dozens and dozens of books about the Christian faith. I’ve learned just enough Greek and Hebrew to be dangerous, and I’ve listened to countless hours of podcasts focused on Jesus and the kingdom of God. No doubt I’ve learned some amazing lessons from the men and women whose words I’ve read or whose talks I’ve listened to over the years. But here’s the truth: some of the most enduring lessons I’ve learned have sprung from my experience teaching 5th and 6th graders about Jesus.
My job is to present the majesty of the gospel message to my audience of 10, 11, and 12-year-olds without compromising on truth, yet finding a way to talk about it in terms they can identify with. Perhaps the most impactful revelation the Lord has given me in the last five years arose from a lesson on the Sermon on the Mount. Only when I stopped long enough to teach this passage to 5th graders did I begin to understand what “poor in spirit” might actually mean in God’s economy.
Have you ever seen a homeless person on the street with a message scrawled on a piece of cardboard? Sure, you have. It probably said something like, “Need food. Please help. God bless.” Sometimes a bit more detailed information is disclosed, but the ones you can typically read from the car as you roll by are the simple ones. Regardless of the content, these signs bear the same central message: HELP.
What I’ve learned as an elementary school Bible teacher (in addition to finding out that kids have a lot more spiritual sensitivity and intelligence than I ever gave them credit for) is how simple God’s invitation to us really is. When Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs” (Matthew 5:3), He’s beckoning us to put down our ceaseless striving to be lord over our own lives. He’s pleading with us to stop wringing our hands over the notion that we can and should be masters of our own destinies. He’s freeing us from the lie that only the strong and self-sufficient will survive, even if they have to walk over the weak to get to where they want to go.
The heart of Jesus longs for us to develop a daily discipline of waiting for Him as we ask, HELP. That beautiful, powerful, four-letter word is all God needs to lead us the rest of the way home, to that sweet place where all God’s people will say in joyous unison, “Ours is the kingdom.”