Exclusive: Blessed are the destitute, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven by Rocket Kirchner

Homeless woman with dogs

Image by Franco Folini via Flickr

by Rocket Kirchner
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
Rocket Kirchner (blog)
Rocket Kirchner (youtube channel)
February 27, 2011

In Aristophanes play Plutus, the god of wealth Plutus declares to Poverty and Destitution that they are like two sisters. Right away Poverty makes it crystal clear that they are not the same. Poverty states that Destitution has nothing of its own “nor even a penny to posses”. Poverty goes on to state that at least the poor man works and that there is some manner of dignity, whereas Destitution has no dignity whatsoever. This mentality was very prevelant in the Maria Nostra culture of its time, and shows up time and time again all over in Ancient literature and history. The Greek word for poverty is translated penian, while the Greek word for destitution is ptocheias. When Jesus said in the Gospel of Luke, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, that word comes from the original Greek word ptocheias which means destitute. So Jesus is saying that all those without dignity, without anything, those who are completely destitute are not only blessed, but theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

This begs the question that living in the heart of the American Empire, are the beggars in the Empire amidst the oppression and mask of normalcy the only ones that are righteous enough to be the rightful heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven? If so, then so much for the passing fads of political changes, because in the end the destitute and those who help them will be saved, and the rest damned. Maybe this is just one reason why Soren Kierkegaard said, “It is a fearful thing to be alone with the New Testament”. In the light of this one statement alone out of the mouth of Jesus, those who have been discarded as human junk through an abuse of power in a systematic and highly structured evil system, will be at the top of the heap, while those on the top, middle, and even poor, will be at the bottom. This is what is called the theology of inversion. And in Ancient times since the destitute were considered to be either cursed of God or the gods, not only does Jesus refute that hateful mentality, but by stating that they are blessed above all He is exposing the class structure in its theological/socioeconomic context.

This mentality and practice continues till today in so-called Christian America contrary to what Jesus taught. So how does this fare with our ideas of activism, activism itself, speaking truth to power, writing or commenting on articles that we think will change peoples thinking that could change the world? Are we part of the problem? Are we perpetuating the myth of actually doing something that is making impact if we ignore the absolute destitute among us? Are we like the phony Christians who turn away the destitute? Maybe if He just could have used the word poor, it would be a little easier on us all. But He did not. He used the word destitute, and Luke was writing to the Greeks. They knew what he meant.

Now we can rationalize away all we want to concerning this verse. We can come up with all the excuses in the world no matter what we believe. But as Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Why can’t the words of Jesus and our conscience just leave us the hell alone? Can we actually live with ourself with any semblance of dignity if we ignore this? No, I don’t think we can. But in a very ironic way, the destitute already have dignity, because they have glimpsed Heaven among a rather hellish existence, and because Christ himself has given to them His dignity by His loving sacrifice. We are invited to join in on that joyful sacrifice and reach out to the ones who have nothing, the most blessed of us all.

Suggested links:

Luke 14:12-14 – Passage Lookup – New International Version, ©2010 – BibleGateway.com

Pagans, Christianity, and Charity

Keith Green: Asleep In The Light (music video)

Keith Green: The Sheep and the Goats

The Destitution Trap


Larry Norman: Feed The Poor



32 thoughts on “Exclusive: Blessed are the destitute, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven by Rocket Kirchner

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  15. I have reached, and helped, as you know, and as do many (tho too few) to far greater degree.

    Many a urine-soaked urchin to the shelter (often tended by christians, and gay, go figure).

    Many a veteran interviewed and touched with heart, since foundation year on Cooper Square, the top of the Bowery (’83 Julio, liberated a camp ’45 never recovered, or ’93 drunken under table by the Vietvet born again Tet ’68).

    I once found a man clutching a store grate at night on Canal street, blind, lost. The city is a hard place for the homeless.

    My last effort was a drunk, sweetest man you could find, but with one beer face-down on the sidewalk for hours, then another beer. He actually preferred this lifestyle, if one were to believe him.

    I have also born the brunt of abuse by those whom I’ve tried to help. It’s not all so simple, and it’s certainly not at all Jesus, tho he had the right idea, but I suspect he was far more human than god.

    Keep giving & helping, whatever your justification, it is good. But I suspect Jesus, or god is not the only reason you (or he) cared.

    • Actually, now that I remember, it was the one-legged man on crutches with the swollen hands who I gave $70 to get a hotel room & shower in the cold, that was the last time I was in the city. I think it must have been diabetes that was killing him Shame on a society who’d leave people to stand on crutches all night with a cup and edema in the cold! And in the richest city in the world, full of churches, and Christians…

  16. So I take it that you won’t be picking up your cross and following Jesus and obey his hard commands to reach the neediest of the needy.

    There is more to Jesus than the Sermon of the Mount, but you’ll never know it unless you are humble in heart.

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  18. Why would you need Jesus to have empathy, altruism & communal care? These are human, communal, familial traits born into the biology of our minds.

    And why would the destitute be automatically saved, and by helping them you’d be furthering your own salvation?

    It seems that equating altruism with personal salvation makes humane deeds a selfish act.

    There are other reasons for being humane than scriptures, & scripture certainly hasn’t made people more humane.

    • Natureboy –very good questions . one of the reasons i put a link called ” Pagans , Christianity , and Charity ” is because it shows the history of of contempt that the Pagans had for the absolute destitute. along comes Christ and his followers with a completly different message , that they are not cursed but blessed , and that all men are equal therefore they must be helped.

      the pagan philosphers including Plato in his Republic did not believe in giving any aid at all. you will find qoutes in this article . hit the link .

      no help to the destitute is in my thinking the greatest form of classism that exists and it consists today in right wing christian fundamentalism .

      you state that these traits of altruism are born into our biological minds. oh really ? look at the contrast between the early christians and pagans . the pagans thought it ”unatural to help the neediest”. they had the scrooge attitude ”if they are gonna die , do it fast to decrease the surplus population ”. this is why jesus said ”you must be re-born ”. a new heart , a new mindset.

      concerning the salvation of the destitute . ”the first shall be last and the last first”. this is not just about the sweet bye and bye , but NOW . we are liberated from ourselves when we don’t depend on those who claim to be leaders and are interested in filling their own pockets. we must become leaders by embracing this ethos .

      concerning your equating altruism and selfishness , i will concede that it is a matter of motives ..yes .. but i fear that i smell a little Ayn Rand here , which i dont sense you were ever fond of her.

      scripture and being more humane ? well , that is a tuff one . it made me more humane , and many that i know . but on the other hand it can abused like anything else . it is like it says — ” a 2 edged sword”.

      bottom line — i like the model of mother teresa, albert swietzer , st. francis , etc …. they went for it and really got beyond the issue of poverty to the real issue of destitution .

      • It could be the contempt for the poor is an imperial, old-world legacy, tho slavery, indentured servitude, the cruelest forms of imposed poverty were ubiquitous.

        Certainly Christ was not the only source of compassion, but I think the threat of Salvation vs. Damnation muddles the humanistic evolutionary biology of common cause & familial preservation with a spooky Manichean myth.

        As we know from our own experiences, caring for the destitute is more than simply giving the homeless a bed. Leaving aside the vast populations of other victims of classism (which Rev. King was concerned with, but whose theology you’ve suddenly given short shrift…), there’s the matter of mental health, and its cousin, addiction.

        This requires a whole other level of care, intervention, science, research and communal compassion & commitment than placing alms in the cup of the ragged leper & attending those who have fallen through the cracks of a careless capitalistic system (a system developed by judeo-christians).

        Then there is the imposed mass destitution of combat, conflict & war (and the resultant walking-wounded returning vets, a surprising number of whom comprise many of those you & I have met in the streets).

        Suddenly with war, whole populations are turned into ragged refugees, a mass of misery neither you nor I have so far had to contend.

        If Jesus brought you and those few followers who care, to compassion, bless him, and you. But the whole retribution in hell thing vs. the reward in heaven thing, is a baggage completely unnecessary & unrelated to the reasons for altruism.

        If the rare Christian actually uses the example of Jesus & his compassion for the truly miserable to ignite the latent empathy in most of us, I’m sure he would have been proud and pleased, and relieved in light of the vast river of blood his concept was used to unleash.

        Sadly, Jesus or no Jesus, the meek & the destitute are not blessed, they are doomed. But do help. We are all just people. Reaching out to the miserable is a message that can’t be said enough.

        Indeed, in reaching out with our hearts, we do help ourselves, and our souls, we are one family, and all feel the same pain. Sometimes a little bit goes a really long way. Sometimes you’ll get hurt for being kind, but that is a chance one takes for being pure.

        Always beware of treachery and those who pray upon one’s sympathies. Empathy is complex, and often abused.

        • Whole systems are built up to try and so called help the needy . most of them dont work ,. and there are phony charitys everywhere. Goverments change all the time. how can this cycle be broken ?

          Jesus was speaking to his discples about this , sending them out without anything , unlike Diogones the Cynic who sent his disciples out with things to be self reliant , and a testimony to ”world negation ”.

          why did Christ send out his disciples with nothing ? so that communitys would take them in and ”commensiality ” would take root in Palestine . he also wanted them free of ”thingism ” and the whole culteral mentality that goes along with that. in other words , it is just not about giving to charity , though good in and of itslef , but rather it is about the breakdown of class structure to which Marxism is a forced counterfiet that seeks to change consicousness by law. the Messianic consciuosness that Jesus presents has nothing to do with laws.

          which brings me to my next point ….the destitute are blessed becuase they are not in the cycle of power and gain . therefore are more open to the inner Kingdom of Heaven penetrating their hearts. this , as i said is not just in the sweet bye and bye , for Christ said ”the Kingdom of Heaven is WITHIN YOU ”.

          its in the Now .

  19. Rocket, your appeal to compassion and conscience will only appeal to those who still have compassion and a conscience. I am afraid that too many of today’s “leaders” are sociopaths, so your words will simply not mean anything to them.

    Our economic-political-social system fosters sociopathology, and, in fact, depends on it. Those with truly strong, active consciences are weeded out of it very early on.

    • yes Ed , i do agree with you about the sociopathology of leadership in general , however , what i am appealing to in this particular article is 2 things :

      1.poverty and destitution are 2 different things.

      2.every one who is taking steps to bring help to a destitute person must be not only encouraged in this , but also must be recoginized as a leader. a true leader.

      i left the short vidoe clip from mickey rourke playing St. Francis , because Francis did not ask anyones permission to choose to become destitute and to help the destitute. he just did it .

      in regards to matters of conscience –there are may people that hover around the brink of loosing it , a good stab of guilt of ignoring the neediest among us just might get them into action . i have seen it done .

      • As far as I understand it so far:

        Sociopathology (and psychopathology, the violent version of antisocial personality disorder, also another made-up word) is a brain disorder. This can occur with narcissism, and acute intelligence, hence tyrants. The sickness is in those who for whatever unexplained reason, follow them.

        Read the Sociopath Next Door. Sociopathy is not acquired nor learned. Empathy & altruism can, however, be enhanced.

        The ‘evil’ side of us is a biology inherited from our reptilian ancestors and apparently exists in the ancient, limbic part of our brains.

        Hormone imbalances & conditioning also play a huge part. Blaming aberrant behavior as ‘good & evil’ is obsolete.

        • Let us presume for mere dicussion sake that good and evil are obsolete ( though i disagree , i will discuss this anyway ) ….

          no matter what we call these destructive energys that are all around us ..whether we call it sociopathology , Jung’s shadow , whatever .. still they must be dealt with .

          ok –so how are they dealt with ? love in action . why ? because love is more powerful than this dark enertia and it combats it better than law.

          it is interesting to note that the basic teachings of Christ was way ahead of the moderns in regard to the antidote to the problem . why ? because he went to the root ( in latin –Radix ) oF the problem by laying out the blueprint in the sermon on the mount.

          The sermon on the mount –adapted by Ghandi , King , Mother Teresa , Albert Swietzer , Bhatsi Khan , and many many others has proven itself a very successful model for social change . that is the upshot of this .

        • Certainly good & evil are not obsolete, but sociopathy is certainly a brain disorder. Some people are simply born without conscience. They can’t be fixed. It’s important not to throw them into the balance.

          Certainly very few violent, selfish, abusive, power-mongering people are actual sociopaths, so certainly there is a conundrum of conscience.

          There is a school of thought emerging that those who genuinely want to help others actually derive satisfaction from being genuine, generous & good, therefore profound altruism is another form of selfishness, strange as that sounds.

          It would seem there is much more to the various reasons why some people subject others to destitution, ie the evolution of clanism, racism, fear & greed, the psychology of war, etc. than some simplistic overarching Zoroastrian code of conduct.

          These forms of societal abuse, in which people participate en-masse, directly cause many individuals to become destitute and others to default to the kill or be killed/self-preservation survival mode.

          Individuals who effect change on a political level, like Gandhi, King, Mandela, who lift whole populations out of situations of individual abuse, victimhood & destitution seem to draw their inspiration more from a well of common humanity than any one god. It would be as dubious to ascribe their actions to a particular historical religious figure as it is preposterous for followers to promote the abuse of women & witches in the name of Mohammed or Jesus.

          No amount of evangelizing has yielded any general movement for genuine good. It’s likely that Jesus & Mohammed, monotheistic cults of the afterlife have instead promoted vastly more pain, in the aggregate, than good.

          The psychology of mass-abuse by monotheists is another disorder to investigate. Certainly you can’t blame the history of mass-abuse by Christians & Muslims on a few bad apples, there is something clearly destructive about the entire construct of a vindictive, wrathful, tyrannical god that has not been good for humanity, regardless of how convinced an individual may be in the ‘truth’ behind their particular brand of belief.

          If empathy, compassion, salvation that transcends politics and promotes personal detachment from the clutches of material misery are the goal, likely Buddha had a far more effective path for those who feel the need to follow.

          Once again, it would be good to continually remember that the followers of Jesus have almost no evidence of what he really said, and clearly risk basing a whole brand of belief on the bogus distortions by ‘interpreters’ who clearly twisted scriptures for abusive goals.

          There is no excuse for such a scant record of Jesus in light of the vastly more complete records of Homer and far more ancient texts, any more than there is an excuse for followers to stubbornly insist that such a sketchy, manipulated & falsified text is to be adhered to with such discipline. Such an obviously intentional distortion almost thoroughly undermines the ‘Truth’ that Christianity supposedly espouses.

          Likely the appeal of these fabricated scriptures has more to do with the agendas of greed, dominance & control promoted by power-mongers throughout history than in an effort by Jesus to admonish people to behave in this world in exchange for personal glory in the next.

          It’s no wonder that that the single most important event in the injection of Christianity into Europe was brought about by the Romans in their effort to subjugate Pagan ‘Barbarians’, converting many of their nature-worshiping traditions (i.e. Christmas trees) into the compellingly terrifying myth of afterlife salvation & damnation used ever since by monks, popes, kings, televangelists & republicans to enrich, dominate & control at the expense of the poor & destitute.

          As to why Abrahamic monotheism has caused so much pain, it’s likely complex, but a belief system that relies on eternal carrots & sticks, personal salvation vs. personal damnation is going to promote fear, and mass fear is historically a great way to invite dominance, abuse & control by tyrants.

          To be sure, fear-mongering religious hypnosis is not the only way to destroy society & the planet in the name of greed, dominance & control since secular mass ideologies, like capitalism & communism have achieved similar ends. Perhaps a clue is in the ‘mass’ part. Any ideology that preaches ‘belief’ in a code, especially one proven to be consistently destructive in the past, compels the individual to be entirely skeptical.

          But what prompts a person to neglect or help another individual in immediate need in otherwise sane circumstances? A recent experiment with actors impersonating people in pain and gauging reaction by passers-by was very revealing. Response varied by victim, man or woman, clutching beer can or not, etc. I’ll look for the reference. There was a Christian who reached out on religious grounds, but most who helped were based apparently on secular humanistic concern.

          In my own experience, when Mayor Koch emptied the psych wards onto the streets, the homeless population exploded. No humane person could possibly help them all, or even a few. They needed the collective assistance of society, acting through the vast resources of government, and they absolutely needed professionals and doctors. In the majority of cases no amount of personal charity would help. The citizenry become cold & indifferent, especially during the culture of greed that permeated the 80’s.

          Society, the people, their government failed them. It seemed most people adhered instead to one of the more abused quasi-Christian tenets. ‘God helps those who help themselves’, and assumed they were just lazy.

          Prior to that, much of the population of park-bench drunks & traditional winos, junkies & destitute living on the streets were combat veterans. Those of us who have managed to become trusted enough to hear their hell know that this can be as deep of a destitution, emptiness & trauma as can be had, and serious professional help is in order. The people, acting through their government & revenue, failed these individuals by sending them to war, and failed them again by neglecting the walking wounded upon their return.

          Similarly, when crack hit the streets, the resultant army of living dead in the worst possible condition needed urgent professional care. This disaster was the culmination of decades of systematic destruction and ghettoization of African American society. Their plight was considered a law-enforcement issue and whole generations are dead & in jail due to the war on drugs. This remains a crime of systemic racism. The mass destitution in New Orleans & Haiti are similarly suspect.

          Suffice to say, I think it’s a bit more complicated than whether or not people are Christians or charitable. People could start by actually voting, and considering who they vote for & why. Unfortunately, as we see with the Iraq War, who we elect in this system has huge, desperate consequences for individuals at home & abroad.

          Certainly this nation has no shortage of seriously devoted Christians. In fact, likely there is no other nation more Christian than this one, in fact the only other more religious countries are Muslim.

          From its inception, Christianity has not helped this nation, or any nation, to be a force for good in the world at home nor abroad. At the very least, people need to reconsider what sort of values the fundamentalist ‘Christians’ in this country espouse and the vast global destruction & destitution this ‘christian nation’ has wrought, and the validity of a belief-system that promotes so much more harm than help.

          If your goal is to guide Christians to be more good in allegiance to what you believe Jesus taught, than that would be a worthy effort. But to attempt to evangelize, to recruit yet more Christians, to promote Christianity as a force for world peace & the answer to destitution of poverty is preposterous. The verdict is in. You’ve had thousands of years to show that Jesus helped society be more humane, and it’s failed. You’ve been disproved. Christians need to work on themselves & their ilk, and seriously reexamine the deranged direction their faith continues to overwhelmingly take. Good Christians are likely no more prevalent than their counterparts in secular society or other faiths.

          Meanwhile the salvation of the world’s poor is going nowhere good, under any guidance, religious or secular. Humanity is failing humans, and the scale grows only more exponentially gross with the advent of industry and the explosion in population.

        • 1. born without a conscience ? who ? where ? there is no proof for this .
          2. nobody is beyond redemption .
          3. Altruism=selfishness ( recycled Ayn Rand Objectivism )
          4. Ghandi , King , Bhatsi Khan , Mother Teresa , St. Francis , Bishop Tutu, Bono ,Albert Sweitzer, the list goes on and on and on , have all been very specific –it was the ethos Christ’s Sermon of the mount that they used in conjunction with their own religious beliefs as a blueprint for activism . in Sanstri this is called ”Satagraya ”(Truthforce).
          5. you state that ”Christians have had 2000 years and have failed ”. well then ..my advice to you would be to join us and become a follower of Jesus yourself , and help us change the world for real . or is that too demanding of you ? the verdict wont be in until you convert and get busy . and part of that getting busy is reaching out to the destitute .

        • 1: Read the Sociopath Next Door.
          2: Debatable, conscience resides in brain. Study the study of brain.
          3: Irrelevant. But rational self-interest is a shared tenet of capitalists & Christians, whether for personal wealth or personal salvation or both, neither are organically beneficent.
          4: If the sermon of the Mount is all you have of the Christ, the New Testament is a mighty thin book.
          5: One does not need Jesus to have a human heart, nor does anyone. Survival is impetus enough. Humans existed millennia before Jesus and elsewhere concurrently. Jesus did not invent Humanism, secular or otherwise.

  20. enough of the christian/religious bull crap!!!!! more people have been murdered in the name of christ by this so called “christian” nation than any other nation on earth& all the insanity,greed,corruption,violence will end when humans drop their religious hatred&fears and learn that we are all related and citizens of this planet!!

    • Carlos , it sounds like the words of Jesus are a little too much of a pain in the ass to you who seek to live a comfortable life. you can blame the phony Christians in history all day long , and i am in total agreement with you , but the question i ask you : what have you done for the destitute lately ?

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