God may want me to be poor at certain seasons and for specific reasons. But in Part 1 I said there were two answers to the question, does God want us to be poor?
The second was No. If poor means laziness, selfishness, addictions, foolish squandering of resources, or an attitude of entitlement, then no, God doesn’t want us to be poor. |(Again, I’m uncomfortable using the word poor in our affluent North American context. One poverty indicator qualified our family as poor because we didn’t own a TV! However, when making ends meet is a constant struggle we feel “poor” by comparison to the surrounding culture.)
Some general truths about gaining wealth:
- Obedience to God’s command to work diligently, very often results in material growth. “He who tills his land will have plenty of bread; But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough.” (Proverbs 28:19)
- Time is a great builder of wealth. Even on a tiny income, if you spend less than you earn, over a long period of time, you will gain wealth.
- Obedience to God’s command to give to those in need often increases the giver’s material wealth. “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given.” (Proverbs 19:17)
- Beware the dangers of comparison! Those people around you, the ones who seem so much better off than you? They’re not (most likely). Based on statistics, your neighbours’ wealth is simply illusion. Canadians currently carry a household debt-to-income ratio of 162.6%. That means they owe $1.62 for every $1.00 they earn.
- Conversely, people who live modestly may have greater net worth than seems evident due to no debt.
There are pitfalls at both ends of the wealth spectrum. A wise man once prayed, “Give me neither poverty nor riches — Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” (Proverbs 30:8,9)
In the 80s when I first asked the question, “Does God want us to be poor,” I was not very skilled or experienced in handling the scriptures. Just reasoning it out on my own, I came to the conclusion, “There’s no special virtue in being poor, so we should try our best to pull out of it.” In the first part I was wrong, I later learned, because James 2:5 says God has “chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith.” Obviously, not all poor people are rich in faith. The great temptation of being poor is envy. (Winston Churchill called socialism “…the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” But I digress.) Clearly, poverty carries with it a unique opportunity for dependence on God.
Yet my thinking on the second part of my conclusion was right in this sense: Being “poor” at any given time in life doesn’t have to mean accepting and expecting “poverty” to continue lifelong. Taking tangible steps like a different job, a move to a part of the country with a lower cost of living, and a cheaper house made big differences to our financial picture.
But we learned some lasting lessons in that season:
- God owns everything and has made us caretakers of whatever He has given us.
- Because He owns it all, the least we can do to show our gratitude is to give generously (relative to our income) to His work and to the needy.
- Seasons of more or less wealth come and go in everyone’s life. We think we are in control but reverses of either gain or loss can come at any time.
- It is far more important to be rich toward God than to have lots of stuff and experiences.
- Many of God’s people showed us generosity, some out of their own needy situations. I will never forget the gift of money that allowed us to buy Christmas gifts for our children one year — it came from a young mom whose husband was facing jail time. We learned to be humbly grateful, no matter the source God used to meet our needs.
- God is our ultimate provider. This was a big one for Monsieur, who takes his responsibility to provide for his family very seriously.
- There are unexpected blessings from being poor: When dollars are limited, some arguments about what to buy are eliminated. We avoided restaurants for budget reasons and discovered the unexpected benefit of maintaining a healthy weight. Our children developed a strong work ethic and learned the value of things they worked hard to earn. Many wasteful and foolish pastimes were unaffordable. A tight budget is the mother of creative birthday parties!
“Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~Apostle Paul, 1st century AD