Poverty and God

One of the things I love about Grateful Moms of Many (GMOMs) is our diversity and the welcoming spirit of our blog to everyone.  That being said I am a Christian and know that many of our readers are as well, so when the topic of poverty and God would not leave my mind recently I felt that there would be many among you that would be interested in the subject too.  This post is in no way intended to disenfranchise any of our readers.  This post is intended only to shine a light on a problem I see within the Christian community that I simply could not remain silent about any longer.  ~Sasha

“I am so frustrated.  My family obeys God, we help the hungry and the homeless, we give to the church in time and money.  We constantly search to do God’s will but still we are poor.  I don’t understand why so many have so much and yet God sees fit to keep us in this financial crises.”

I have seen and heard the above statements so many times, worded one way or another, by my fellow Christians. Over and over again, even by my own mouth at one point, we cry out “Why God?  Why, am I, your faithful servant, condemned to struggle when I have been faithful and my neighbor prospers and yet does no perceivable good?”  Then in the same measure I watch as their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ tell them to have more faith, to pray more, to work harder and waste less.  They tell them how if they obey God then they will be rewarded and that if they are not then something in their lives must be displeasing God.  Why else would they be poor?  Occasionally one might remind them that only God knows the true condition of the heart and we should not do good works on earth expecting treasures that are instead waiting in heaven.  But never do I see or hear what needs to be said.

It is not a sin or a punishment to be poor.

Let me say that again just in case it wasn’t clear the first time.

It is not a sin or a punishment to be poor.

Some how, in ways I can not even begin to fathom, it has become popular opinion in the Christian faith that while God loves the poor he is just waiting for them to shape up so that he can heap piles of cash on their heads.  Too often I have seen entire congregations pass judgment on anyone below the poverty line.  It is simple in their minds.  To be rich is to be in God’s favor and receiving his blessings and to be poor must mean you are out of favor and undeserving of his blessings.  Thing is… that just isn’t biblical.  So what does God have to say about the poor and the wealthy?

In James chapter 2 versus 1-7 (NIV) we are told that to judge a man and treat him poorly because of his lack of wealth and “filthy clothing” is to “become judges with evil thoughts”.  Further more it says that the rich are the very ones that have been exploiting them and that God has chosen those that are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised to those who love him.

How about Christ himself, what was his opinion?  We have all heard the story of the young wealthy man who came to Jesus and asked what it was he need do to get eternal life and then after being told to follow the commandments the man tells Jesus that he has already done that.  Then what does Jesus tell him to do?  “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me. ” Matthew 19 verse 21 (NIV)  And what is the young man’s reaction to this news? In verse 22 it tells us  “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  Then Jesus lays on us perhaps the most famous biblical words on wealth of all time.  “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19: 24-25

Over and over again you read stories of how very hard it is for the rich to follow God and what of the poor?  Help them, feed them, do not despise them, give to them, do not neglect them.  You see time and again stories of faithful followers of God that are very poor, despite finding great favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Luke Chapter 12 (NIV)

15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Also of course is the story Christ told in the presence of the pharisees in Luke chapter 16 of the rich man and Lazarus… we don’t even get the rich man’s name.  What we do get though is a story of a man being very wealthy and out of God’s favor and a man being very poor and being in God’s favor.

So am I trying to say that God hates rich people?  No, clearly not.  But what I am trying to say is that neither does he hate the poor.  I want to see a change for the better in the Christian community.  Too often I have come into a church to see all of the wealthy seated proudly in the front while the poor are patted on the head and sent out of sight.  Too often have I seen the cold judgmental eyes as the offering plate is passed around or a young woman tries to hide how little she is able to put in the offering.  Why do we do this?  It isn’t biblical, so why do we allow it to continue?  This is my challenge to you my fellow Christians, stop judging the poor, your savior didn’t.  Just stop.  It really can, and should be, that simple.

*In addition to the above thoughts I would like to add something that happened to me while I was studying these things.  I went to the store and while I was selecting my groceries I overheard one delivery worker speaking to another about this very topic!  I heard the end of the conversation as I passed by and had to ask him for the scripture reference he was quoting.  It truly summarized what my husband and I have prayed for many years and now I try to meditate on the words and include it in my prayers as often as it comes to mind.  I will share it here in the hopes that it will be bring clarity to others as well.

Proverbs 30

8b give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

2 thoughts on “Poverty and God

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for writing on this topic, Sasha. This brought me to tears (okay, more like bawling my eyes out) because it has been weighing heavy on my heart lately. I am a Christian and I am poor. We are in a rough patch right now (more then usual) and just sold one of our precious worldly possessions, our xbox and TV. We needed the money to pay power and worldly possessions really aren’t needed, they are a luxury. Either way though, it was tough to do. I found myself in the “Why, God?” attitude and wondering why we are cursed with poverty. Am I not a good enough Christian? Am I being punished for something? It is so easy to let that nagging voice put distance between God and I because I feel like I must not be pleasing to Him. This nagging voice is caused by so much of the Christian community. I have heard so many time – blessed are the rich, cursed is the poor. Christians judge other Christians who are poor. They preach the prosperity gospel. They help the poor, but doubt and look down upon other Christians who are poor. It seems like a huge division between the rich and the poor of the Christian community instead of us all coming together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Oh course, not all Christians are like this, but many are. I have met very faithful, devoted Christians who are in poverty and in riches. As for me, I am in poverty and I am working on adjusting my attitude. I need to be thankful for my daily bread and the many blessing God has given me and not compare myself to the worldly standards (or the standards among many Christians). I need to use my energy for doing God’s work and living up to His standards. Thank you for this post and the reminder I needed at the perfect time. Thank you for the scripture verses that really spoke to my heart and reminded me of God’s love for the poor. Thank you.

  2. In my experience at church, I have totally seen what you are talking about. Judgements are made on the poor all the time. Their “worthiness” is discussed and proper courses of action are suggested. But all the while, there is a certain smugness from the “giver” who knows they are too smart or too holy to be in dire financial circumstances.

    I think it’s complicated to explain, but also very simple to understand (is that possible?) as to why people are judgmental towards the poor (or any other less fortunate group). I really think people like to make excuses as to why other Christians are poor in order to keep themselves “safe”. Do you know what I mean? Like, a person may say, “Well, if they can afford a cell phone, then they’re throwing their money away.” or “If they practiced birth control, they wouldn’t be in this situation.” It’s like distancing yourself from their lives in order to keep themselves safe from the same fate.

    I know, I’m guilty of this myself. It’s easy to look at someone else’s circumstances and decide how they should change themselves for the better. But WE ALL blow money, we all make stupid financial choices, we all make mistakes that we should learn from. What makes “us” any different from “them”? Well…………. it’s because we’re somehow favored, of course, so now we can be better than “them”. I’m saying this tongue-in-cheek, obviously, but it’s to illustrate a point.

    My brother is a police officer in my hometown. Recently, there was a terrible murder-suicide of a father and his 3 children. It was devastating. Someone at his church went up to him and said, “Well, I heard the guy was black and that they were selling drugs at that house. So, I guess you reap what you sow.” My brother was shocked and disgusted. This man was a member of his church family. How could any Christian say something so………… awful? I think the answer is hard to explain but easy to understand. He was trying to keep his family and himself from the same fate. By distancing himself. Like poverty.

    There is NO EXCUSE for this kind of garbage, but I think it reflects human nature in a big way. It doesn’t make you want to go on a punching spree – less, but it may help to understand why some people need to do this to others.

    Holly

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