Financial poverty where it is found around the world is easy to see. One cannot be untouched by the slums of Calcutta, the townships of South Africa and any number of places where the utter devastation of the human condition confronts us with overwhelming power.
What is not so evident is poverty in the developed world. I am not referring to financial poverty – although that can be easily found – but poverty of spirit and purpose. This is a poverty disguised by material success and all its trappings which is every bit as devastating to our hearts as material poverty is in the slums. In fact, our hearts can live in the slum of poverty of spirit while we reside in homes that have everything we could ever need.
Of course the greatest poverty of all is that of alienation with our creator. But even among those who know Him there is often great poverty of spirit. The very gifts that He gives in income and possessions often tempt us to put our trust in our abilities, success and net worth rather than in simple faith that places all of life in His hands and for His purposes.
Such poverty of spirit leads to a poverty of purpose where the focus of our lives becomes ourselves and our pleasure rather than Him and His divine purpose for our existence (Ephesians 2:10). We are too busy with our stuff and schedule to engage in meaningful ministry. We have so many options in life that it is easy to crowd out the most important priority – knowing Him and dedicating our lives to making Him known.
Lives lived primarily for ourselves with dependence on ourselves are empty lives, not the abundant life that Jesus came to give. We have defined that abundance as material abundance. He defined it is an abundance of Him and the purpose that He brings. I want to be wealthy – in the way that only Jesus can make me wealthy. It is a wealth of His presence, His purposes for my life where I can join him in a meaningful way with what He is up to in our world. It is a wealth of enjoying the length and depth of his love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and presence. It is a wealth of being able to live by simple faith, trusting Him for my daily bread and direction. It is the wealth of Christ in Me, the hope of glory.
This is true wealth and it lifts us from the slums of poverty of spirit. Oh, and some of the folks that I have met in the literal slums? Some of those believers are the happiest people I have ever met – not because of their circumstances but because while their physical body lives in a slum, their hearts are wealthy with the love, purpose, and life of Jesus. Who is poor? Them or us?