Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Poverty is No Blessing

He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes —
With the princes of His people.
(Psalm 113:7-8)
There are many Christians who have a poverty mentality. They seem to think of poverty as some sort of blessing—not one they want to be blessed with, necessarily — but a blessing nonetheless. These same people also tend to think that prosperity is a sort of curse — but like Tevye the Milkman in Fiddler on the Roof, they would not mind being cursed with it. What these same people do seem to mind, though, is when other people teach that God wants to deliver all His people out of poverty into prosperity.

According to the Bible, however, poverty is not a blessing. Look at Deuteronomy 28, for example. It gives us a list of blessings (vv. 1-14) and curses (vv. 15-68). Poverty, along with sickness and failure, is not found among the blessings, only among the curses.

Some might ask, “But didn’t Jesus bless poverty in the Sermon on the Mount?” No, He didn’t. He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). There is a blessing for the poor, but poverty is not that blessing, nor it is blessed.

“Blessed are the poor.” But the poor are not simply those who have nothing. The poor are those who are totally dependent upon God, who realize that without God, they have nothing. A person can have nothing, and yet be trusting in his own efforts and devices to see him through. That is not who Jesus is talking about. On the other hand, a person may have much wealth, and yet be totally dependent upon God, realizing that, without God, he has absolutely nothing. Such a person is “poor in spirit.”

Now, “poor in spirit” is not a poverty mentality. Jesus is not advocating lack. That would violate the 23rd Psalm, “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want [be in lack].” Jesus is advocating trust, and there is great blessing on that. The Bible says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). God is not pleased by poverty and He does not reward it all. But faith pleases Him and receives great reward from Him. That is why Jesus declared that the poor in spirit are blessed. They do not possess a poverty mentality, but a blessing mentality.

Poverty is not a blessing. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the poor, because you are going to stay poor.” No, the poor in spirit — those who trust in God alone — are blessed because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Jesus was not speaking of future expectation, “the kingdom will one day belong to them,” but of present reality, “theirs is [present tense] the kingdom.” It should be instructive to us that, in the kingdom of heaven, there is no poverty or lack, but prosperity and provision.

Jesus has no intention of leaving those who are poor in spirit in poverty. As the psalm writer said, “He lifts the poor out of the dust … that He may seat him with princes.”

Poverty is not a blessing but a curse. But being lifted out of the dust and seated with princes — that’s abundance of blessing.