Why is it that as individuals and ministries, we Christians can sometimes find ourselves trapped in a cycle of poverty, scrounging around for the resource to do life? I think there are many reasons, possibly as many as there are people and ministries in this situation! For some us though, we get a quirky sense of enjoyment and even take a little pride in ‘making do’ despite our poverty. If this is the case, and even if not, a fresh encounter with our gracious God might be called for! For me, in hearing God on my particular situation and wrestling with the issues, I have discovered some themes that I want to start applying.
Firstly it has been important for me to clarify the difference between poverty and simplicity. God calls many of us to the life of simplicity whereas I don’t think he calls us to what we would today call poverty. He calls us rather, to care for and be with the poor, and to address both the roots and the results of poverty. Sometimes our beliefs, the way we make decisions and manage our resources can perpetuate a state of lack that then hampers us in that very ministry. I have found that it is far too easy to mistake faith for presumption. A wise person gave me this advice recently – “God is never in a rush! So if in doubt, don’t! Wait for godly confirmation.” Sometimes our choices, even those we feel were inspired by God, routinely lead us into lack or debt. We then reassure ourselves that God is keeping us dependant on him but perhaps we have mistaken self-imposed poverty (that has come as a result of presumption and flawed stewardship) for dependence on God. A life of simplicity and dependence on God is not defined by lack.
The monastics of old took vows of poverty, I wonder if poverty in that context is what we would now call simplicity? Whatever the case, our living and lifestyle must not deny the nature of our God, his Kingdom, his power and his glory – all of which are beyond anything we can imagine. Simplicity is not the same as lack. Our attitude needs to be like Christ, neither grasping his identity, nor denying it but in humility walking in intimate fellowship and obedience to the Father. He knew no limits in his ability and resource to express the Father’s kingdom in the ways the Father directed; he was simply obedient and walked in harmony with the Father.
There is no doubt in my mind that heaven gives generously, resource of every kind to each of us often according to our ability and experience. What happens after that is determined by us. We are citizens of heaven, there is no secular – sacred divide in reality, life is all about God’s Kingdom here on earth. All that I have and all that I am, all that I own and all that I can do is a gift from heaven. I exist purely because God makes it possible! Thank you God! Everything he gives and everything he does is so that we and those around us can know him more, experience him and his rule, and respond to him. Sometimes we can forget the source of what we have and also the task for which it was given.
I am discovering a new freedom in knowing how utterly indebted to God I am, for the very air that I breath. And as I draw closer to him, I realise that he really is my Shepherd and I lack nothing; I have access to all that I need and so much more. Although the poor have a place of honour in His kingdom, and Jesus came especially for the poor, the broken, the captive, the down trodden…. poverty itself is not part of his design.