John Piper, in the introduction to his sermon on the first beatitude (“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”) wrote,
Back in 1978 I spoke in Aspen, Colorado, to a gathering of Inter-Varsity students and people off the street. At the end of my talk one of the students asked a very common question. He said, “Isn’t Christianity a crutch for people who can’t make it on their own?” My answer was very simple. I said, “Yes.” Period. I can’t remember how the conversation went from there. So let me just pick it up here. My return question would be, “Why is the thought that Christianity is a crutch considered to be a valid criticism of Christianity?” People don’t usually look at a crutch and say, “That’s bad. It’s just a crutch.” People don’t in general think that crutches are bad things. Why does a crutch become a bad thing when it’s Christianity?
I think the answer that most critics would give is this: if Christianity is a crutch, then it’s only good for cripples. But we don’t like to see ourselves as cripples. And so it is offensive to our self-sufficiency to label Christianity as a crutch. But Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). In other words, the only people who will ever come to get what Jesus has to give are sick people, people who know that they are spiritually and morally and very often physically crippled. Everybody has a creed. All people believe in something and shape their lives around it. Even agnostics believe very strongly that you ought not believe anything very strongly (which is why it is so hard to be a consistent agnostic). We all have a creed that we live by, whether we can articulate it or not.
What is the creed behind the conviction that if Christianity is a crutch, it is undesirable and unworthy of acceptance? I think the answer is this: the creed behind this criticism of Christianity is the confidence that we are not cripples, and that real joy and fulfillment in life are to be found in the pursuit of self-reliance, self-confidence, self-determination, and self-esteem. Any Messiah who comes along and proposes to replace self-reliance with childlike God-reliance, and self-confidence with submissive God-confidence, and self-determination with sovereign grace, and self-esteem with magnificent mercy for the unworthy—that Messiah is going to be a threat to the religion of self-admiration. That religion has dominated the world ever since Adam and Eve fell in love with the image of their own independent potential when they it saw reflected back to them in the eye of the serpent: “You will not die; you will be like God.”
The Kingdom of God is for those who know that Christ is a crutch because we are broken. Blessed are the poor in spirit.