YOU'VE SEEN A GREAT DEAL OF POVERTY AROUND THE WORLD. DO YOU PERCEIVE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CHRISTIANITY OF THE POOR AND THE CHRISTIANITY OF THE RICH?
Yes, I do. In the Old Testament, there is a fundamental association between material and spiritual poverty. Often, you are not sure what is meant by "the poor." But they tend to be those who are materially poor and who on account of that poverty need to put their trust in God with a greater strength than if they were rich and so self-dependent.
My own understanding is that in the Sermon on the Mount, which may have involved a concentrated period of instruction, Jesus said both "Blessed are you poor" (Luke) and "Blessed are the poor in spirit" (Matthew). I think there is a blessedness attaching to both. The kingdom of God is a blessing to the materially poor because it affirms their dignity and relieves their poverty; it is also a blessing, a free gift, to the spiritually poor. So, there is a sense in which poverty is an aid to faith and riches are a barrier to faith.
I want to add that all these terms--simplicity, contentment, generosity, and wealth--are comparative. There is no absolute simplicity or poverty. My little kitchen not only has running water but constant hot water. That would be regarded as the height of luxury in some parts of the world, yet we don't regard it as that, and comparatively speaking, in this country it isn't. We need to feel the challenge of Jesus to us in the light of our own situation and circumstances.
Is God's kingdom a blessing to the poor even if they do not recognize that they are poor in spirit?
No, I think the two blessings go together.
DO THE POOR TEND TO SEE THEMSELVES AS POOR IN SPIRIT?
Some do. ...1