I asked the question, Does God Want Us To Be Poor, when we were a young couple, house-poor and struggling to make ends meet. When every unforeseen bill threatened to drown us. When every car or appliance breakdown was a catastrophe. And I’ll confess to a bit of a whine in my tone when I asked it.(To clarify, I’m well aware that the definition of poor is largely governed by cultural context. North Americans, even the very poorest, can hardly be called poor in the context of the entire world. But I’m talking about the context I know — Canada.)
A decade or so later a friend of mine in similar financial straits asked the same question.
So does God want us to be poor? The Bible gives a simple answer — Yes and No. 😀
Yes. If I am poor right now, I can be sure that it is exactly what God has ordained for me at the moment. In the sweepingly weighty, yet tenderly comforting words of the Heidelberg catechism, we’re told God upholds each of us so that,
“…leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty — all things in fact, come to us not by chance but from His fatherly hand.”
There are a few reasons God may want me to be poor.
- To develop a tight dependency on Him. “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith…?” (James 2:5) There’s nothing like utter helplessness to make us look to God to meet our needs.
- To keep me from the temptation of pride in my own achievements, forgetting God. “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God…lest when you have eaten and are full and have built beautiful houses … and all that you have is multiplied … then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth’.” (Deuteronomy 8: 11 – 17)
- To give me a special blessing. “Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of heaven.” (Luke 6:20) The parallel passage in Matthew’s gospel elaborates: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” Those who are at the end of their ropes materially, are an illustration of what anyone must become spiritually in order to belong to God’s kingdom: mere empty-handed beggars.
- To be the recipient of the generosity of others. Don’t laugh! It’s actually pretty hard to be on the receiving end. But if there are no have-nots, who can the haves give to? “Give to him who asks you…” (Matthew 5:42)
- To identify with the poor. Jesus did this. (2 Corinthians 8:9) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” Spiritually rich, that is. Countless Christians have foregone wealth and privilege in order to bring the good news of Jesus to those who would not otherwise hear of Him.
Those are some compelling reasons to believe that God wants me to be poor at certain times and for specific reasons. Next time, I’ll talk about the second answer I gave to the question, does God want us to be poor? In the meantime, think on this:
Contentment is the inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, freely submitting to and taking pleasure in God’s disposal in every condition. ~Jeremiah Burroughs, 1648