Counseling Comfort to the Poor in Spirit and Correction to the Rich in Spirit

Pharase-Publican-300-1024x742The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6)

In counseling, or in life in general, we encounter two types of people: those aware they are broken and those who think they are not.  I was reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and was encouraged by his thinking on this subject.  Perhaps it is a good way to interact with those we formally or informally counsel.  It allows us to both counsel comfort to the poor in spirit and correction to the “rich” in spirit.

The “rich in spirit” might be a “good-natured” person…perhaps more amiable, stable and well-liked than others, but does that “wealth of personality” still allow them to humbly recognize their poverty in comparison to the Perfect Personality? Only those who are poor in spirit will receive the Kingdom. It is easier for those who struggle with more “damaged” constitutions – upon whom the fallen world has fallen more severely – to see their desperate need for help from God. The rich in spirit don’t want a handout. The healthy don’t want a visit from their Doctor. How blessed it is to be poor and sick!

I just love this wisdom from C.S. Lewis:

If you have sound nerves and intelligence and health and popularity and a good upbringing, you are likely to be quite satisfied with your character as it is…often people who have all these natural kinds of goodness cannot be brought to recognize their need for Christ at all until, one day, the natural goodness lets them down and their self-satisfaction is shattered. In other words, it is hard for those who are “rich” in this sense to enter the Kingdom…it is very different for the nasty people – the little, low, timid, warped, thin-blooded, lonely people, or the passionate, sensual, unbalanced people. If they make any attempt at goodness at all, they learn, in double quick time, that they need help. It is Christ or nothing for them. It is taking up the cross and following – or else despair. They are the lost sheep; He came specially to find them.

If you are a nice person – if virtue comes easily to you – beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God’s gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

But if you are a poor creature – poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels – saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion – nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends – do not despair. God knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all – not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.)

We must help the poor and the “rich” see just how blessed it is to be poor and needy.  Such hope-filled humility will allow them to run to the embrace of their Father, the redemption of their Savior, and the comfort of their Counselor!

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