The greatest poverty of all is not physical poverty (as profound as that is in our world) but spiritual poverty, poverty of spirit and of the soul. It is the poverty of being out of fellowship with our creator!
Satan delights in spiritual poverty for he knows that it robs life of its true meaning as men and women made in God’s Image. Anything he can do to encourage a substitute for the true God He will do. It may be an alternate definition of truth, the pursuit of stuff and wealth, the distractions of life or for believers, encouraging us to keep God on the periphery of our lives rather than in the center. Anything that keeps the created from the creator is fair game for Satan. For he knows that it is the creator who brings meaning to the created.
As a mission leader I have the opportunity to travel to many places in our world and we see first-hand the poverty of spirit that pervades our fallen world. It is seen in many forms. In India with Hinduism it is wondering which of the 30 to 40 million Gods one should worship and appease, never really knowing if you chose the right on. In Buddhism it is the endless cycle of existence in some form or another until you get it right.
In Islam it is either a fatalistic fear of God or trying to perform well enough to please Mohamed. In much of the former communist block it is atheism with no God at all. In each case there is a spiritual poverty that keeps people in fear or substitutes some lesser thing for the fullness that only Jesus can offer.
Solomon, with all his possessions understood how empty life was when lived apart from a relationship with God. In fact, he said that it is only God Himself who gives us the ability to truly enjoy those things God has given to us.
“Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him – for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work – this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20).”
Even those who profess faith in Christ can experience spiritual poverty when Jesus is not at the center of their lives. It is He who gives our lives meaning and purpose but unless we are living out His call on our lives we can experience significant emptiness. Life is more than the abundance of our possessions, the toys we can accumulate or the leisure we enjoy. All of those can be gifts of God, according to Solomon but only when God is at the center for it is He who gives us the ability to truly enjoy all of life.
How do we defeat Satan’s attempts to diminish our lives? We keep Jesus at the center of all that we are and all that we do. This includes nourishing our relationship with Jesus through His Word and prayer, being attentive to the voice of His spirit in our hearts, using the gifts He has given for His purposes and the advancement of His Kingdom and loving others as Jesus loved them. When Jesus is central to all that we do Satan is robbed of his ability to deprive us of God’s goodness, joy and purpose. Everything that takes away from our relationship with our Creator should be resisted and everything that keeps Jesus central in our lives should be embraced.