Praying to be Poor

I’ve been learning a lot this year about what it means to be “crazy generous”, a term coined by a new church I started attending.  Caleb’s spiritual gift is generosity.  This means that he loves to give money away to those in need.  I have never seen him tempted to hold on to his money for his own selfish gain.

Me, on the other hand, I’m a hoarder.  I am an ex-eBay addict, a woman blessed with the inherit genes to shop for the sake of shopping. I could waste hours shopping for stuff I don’t need simply because I desire it.  Combine this weakness with the forced discipline of having a newly married income, and let’s just say that this has been a year of excellent spiritual growth.

It’s been a struggle for me, but I am so grateful that God’s teaching me lessons about generosity and leading me away from gluttony of personal items.  Jesus says in Matthew 19:24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  He says this at least two times, which means that people back then probably didn’t grasp the full concept of this either.

I know I don’t always fully understand it, and I feel that I will always be learning something about it.  Here’s what I’ve learned so far about wanting or owning too much stuff:

1) There is never a cap on how much you want.  Marketing has been and always will be a ploy to get you to envy and spend money needlessly.  (I should know, I’m in marketing!)  On the other hand, monitoring your frugality can be just as much as issue as spending it all needlessly.  Either way, money and your possessions are always on your mind.

2)  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Matt 6:24  I’ve learned what this means by monitoring my intentions.  Do I pick a career based on how much money I can make, or do I let God guide me in my career so that I can best glorify Him (regardless of whether it makes a lot of money)?  If money is my master, am I likely to give it away to people in need or hoard it for myself?   Just be sure your desire to give money away generously is not self-serving.  (Matt 6:1-4)

3) Once you start viewing money as a safety net, you no longer see the need for God.  Even if you don’t have wealth right now, just the idea that one day you might have wealth is enough to make you feel safe.  People are always telling me that I don’t have to worry about my finances because my husband’s planning on being a doctor.   At one point I started feeling secure because of the future hope that my husband would be rich.  First of all, there is never a sure thing in this life.  Second of all, even if my husband does become a rich doctor, I am now praying that I will hate wealth.

I feel crazy when I say that, so maybe I sound crazy.  But I want to hate money.  When money fills my bank account, I want to look at it with disdain rather than with glee.

I’m going to be praying to be poor.

Why?

Because it’s harder for a rich man to get into heaven than for a GIGANTIC camel to go through an itty bitty teeny weeny eye of a needle.  (Be honest — how many of you just imagined a camel in a polka dot bikini?  That’s the power of marketing!)

In my mind, if I hate my own money, I will have no problem giving it away.  I’ll have no problem being generous.  If you think about it, half of Jesus’ sermons in the Beatitudes are about providing for people’s physical needs.  If God blesses me with financial stability, I want to give people my proverbial (and physical!) second coat.

This doesn’t necessarily mean I’m going to live off of locusts and honey for the rest of my life.  I’d love to acquire certain things in life, like a house big enough for my future family, a cheery Golden Retriever named Bowser, a car that’s maybe not 10 years old and falling apart, and possibly a boat.  The problem is when I start to expect these things out of my future because I plan on making a ton of money in my big-time career.  The problem is when I let my stuff own me and define me.  The problem is when I start to live for things rather than for the will of Jesus Christ.  Stuff isn’t inherently evil, but it’s a temptation big enough to make Jesus say, “AGAIN I say to you…”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be wary of my stuff from now on.

Money is tricky!  We can’t avoid it, so we have to learn to navigate it.  Anyone straight out of college with pressing bills to pay will tell you that money becomes a necessary primary occupation.  It can be difficult to trust God to take care of our needs.  But here’s the truth: if you’re working hard and living honestly and trying to serve God, He’s not going to just let you starve.  Jesus reassures us with this thought: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matt 10:29-31)

Store up your treasures in heaven, my friends.  Consider the mindset of praying to be poor.

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20

All scripture taken from the NASB version on Biblegateway.com

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About Nicole Cragin Davis

Mostly I'm good at inspiring the beauty in chaos to prevail. Also I really like pancakes.

Posted on June 26, 2012, in Overcoming Sin and Temptation, Society's Issues and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I agree with you Nicole and once again I am impressed and encouraged by your insight. One important thing I have learned over time is that the generosity we show toward all is not for our own sake but for the love of Jesus. Jesus always talks about giving to those who ask or need for “his sake” or “for love of me” etc.

    I think you will find, possibly, that some people who ask you for help are despicable. At least, I have seen many poor people use my gifts to buy alcohol or drugs, waste it on lottery tickets, and generally spew vile words toward everyone and everything. You will find people who are thankless and spiteful. You will find that many poor people seem to have made bad choices in their lives. It will seem that they have dug their own graves or are harvesting what they themselves have sown. They hate Christ, they despise goodness, and view kindness as weakness. A poor man told me that phrase just last night. I honestly am disgusted and revolted by many of these people, BUT Jesus doesn’t say to help them for their sake but for his sake! In that context I am motivated to help even the most contemptuous, disgusting person I meet because in that person I am showing my love for Jesus.

    Jesus is very clear in the Gospel of Matthew especially, that at the final judgement he will weigh how much we have loved him, and one of the criteria is our acts of generosity and service to the poor in body, mind, and spirit:

    “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

    To me this seems to be one of the central messages of the Gospel. We must show our love for Jesus, our fatih in Jesus, and our hope in Jesus by serving the “least” of his family, which I interpret to mean all of humanity in general. The parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man comes to mind also. So many times we give money to foreign missions, but right in our very own neighborhood there is shocking poverty of mind, spirit, hope, love, wisdom, not to mention physical poverty. This is something I have been thinking about and asking God to help me with lately. I pray that he will show me poverty where it is near me and then give me what I need to love him in the person of the one who needs it.

    So in this sense, I think if we think about money from this angle, slowly the attachment we have to things and money will fade. Of course, all of us live under the bondage of a sinful world where we must toil and labor to support ourselves, but the poisonous love of possessions, money, or “security” will fade if we focus on using our wealth to help those whom Jesus loves so desperately. There is no “security” in money anyway. It can all be gone in a moment (and probably will if you read the news lately). But our eternal treasure is our love for Jesus and his for us, and we can build that love by following his commands including giving to those who ask.

    All the best!

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! I have also been reflecting on the passage you quoted. It reminds me that there is someone to help in every circumstance.

    One thing that has helped me is to remember that the only way I differ from those who act despicably is that I have been released from the bondage of sin and redeemed from my despicable behavior and they are still trapped. This at least helps me reconcile their behavior with what I know Jesus calls me to do. Still, I do feel it’s important to know the difference between Spirit-inspired giving and emotionally manipulated giving. Like you said, the people who would emotionally manipulate us to give them money for useless purposes are most likely the ones who suffer from poverty of love and kindness.

    Isaiah 61:1-3 is exceptionally poignant when Jesus proclaims this to those “lesser” Nazarenes in the synagogue (for it’s been said that nothing good comes out of Nazarene!):

    The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to bring good news to the poor;
    he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
    2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn;
    3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
    to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
    the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
    that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified

    I hope God answers your prayers! Thank you for reading and commenting, and God bless.

  1. Pingback: Ambition is a double-edged sword « The God Files

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