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THE PRIVILEGE OF POVERTY

God has granted me the very great privilege of being poor.

Being poor is the financial version of being on the spiritual strait and narrow.

Straitened financial circumstances narrow your options, which means you are less likely to do something you shouldn’t (mainly because you can’t afford to).

I was raised in comfort and lived in comfort for most of my life. Comfort became my default, and I assumed life was meant to be comfortable. I couldn’t imagine being uncomfortable, and the few times I was, I rushed to feel comfortable again.

Comfort and doing God’s will do not always align, at least not during our time on Earth.

Jesus lived a relatively comfortable life in Nazareth as a carpenter. When he became a full-time minister, his comfort years ended. Then he only occasionally lived in comfort, while the rest of the time he slept rough. He dined well, though, at the homes of the wealthy hypocrites (too bad about the dinner companions).

Scripture says that God’s children will be a “poor and afflicted” people, and so we are. When we struggle against our condition of being poor by trying to earn more money, we are essentially struggling against God. We are throwing God’s great gift of poverty back in his face.

We shouldn’t do that.

If God grants us a life of poverty, it’s because he trusts us to know how to handle it and to embrace it. As Paul says: “I have learned to rejoice whether I’m abased or abounding.” The key word here is not “rejoice” but “learned”. Learning requires an immersive experience. You can’t learn to rejoice over being abased unless you’ve actually live abased and learned the right way to handle it. God, of course, will guide you in that.

Immigrants who move from third- to first-world countries typically experience an increase in comfort but a decrease in overall well-being. Comfort, it seems, isn’t good for your health. Nietzsche loathed “wretched comfort” and blamed it for the stagnation of people’s philosophical (that is, proto-spiritual) aspirations. He wasn’t wrong in that. I know people who refuse to travel because they don’t want to leave the comfort of their own bed. They trade experiencing the invigorating wonders of God’s creation for a few hours of unconsciousness. That, to me, is not a good trade-off.

When God first introduced me to my life of poverty, I fought against it. I railed against it. I tried to figure ways around it. But God was firm with me, even while allowing me space and time to get used to it.

Now I can honestly say that I prefer poverty. I see how much better I am in every aspect of my life when I have enough for my needs but not more than enough. When I have more than enough, it just gets me into trouble. Pride creeps in – pride in consumerism, pride in being able to afford more than you or you, pride in what I have achieved rather than in what God has blessed me with. I am not a pleasant person when I have more than enough.

I was also not a pleasant person when I first started to have just enough and no more. It was initially unnerving. Even though God assured me I’d always have enough for my needs, I was too used to having more than enough to find having “just enough” sufficient. Having just enough didn’t seem like enough. But it was, and it is, and it will continue to be for the rest of my time here.

Those outside the Kingdom dream and scheme about ways to make more money, while we inside the Kingdom put aside those thoughts and let God provide for us. On nights when I don’t officially have a place to lay my head, God guides me past snoring security guards and through open doors that should be locked to find temporary shelter waiting for me. I’m constantly in awe at where I end up. It’s not always comfortable, but it is sufficient. I get the rest I need.

Poverty keeps me active, alert, and always on the move, whereas comfort tends to make me inactive, dull-minded, and stationary. For those reasons alone, I far prefer poverty. Jesus taught us to pray “Give us this day our daily bread”, not “Give us this day enough bread for the next six months”. If we truly mean that prayer (and we should always mean our prayers), we would embrace the godly concept of “just enough” and reject comfort.

A life of ease is no life for a follower of Jesus.