“Oh, no… She has joined their ranks,” I hear someone thinking.
“What do you expect when she’s listening to Joel Osteen…?’
LOL! Actually, this post wasn’t inspired by anything Joel Osteen said, at least not directly. It was actually inspired by a message preached in church last week, and a mental shift I’ve been going through over time.
If you’ve always been of the opinion and belief that God doesn’t want you to be poor, this must be quite surprising for you, to think that such a concept is foreign or scary to someone who claims to believe in God. But the truth is, no matter what we believe, how we act shows whether or not we believe God prefers poverty to riches. Many times, Christians run from or shy away from doing things to grow their wealth because of the mentality that it is more righteous to be poor.
The Bible talks a lot about the rich and the poor, sometimes appearing to favour the poor, and sometimes appearing to favour the rich. When Jesus tells the rich to become poor by selling off their possessions or forsaking all in order to follow Him, it sort of gives the impression that it is better to be poor…and God would rather we were poor and humble…
But this is the true comparison… God would rather you are poor and humble than you are rich and proud. It is the combination. But the best combination is this: that you are rich and humble. John said it thus: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth…” (3 John 1:2).
God wants everything that is good for you! Poverty is not good. Let’s get that straight. This is not to say that those who are poor are wicked, evil, suffering some punishment for unrighteousness or anything. Being poor is a circumstance that can befall anyone. Those who are proud in their accomplishments and think they can never be poor because of the abundance of their wealth are prone to a fall. They are haughty and poor in humility! They should have holy fear because even Job, who was rich in wealth and in humility, suddenly found himself poor in every way…
We may all be familiar with the beatitudes, where Jesus speaks of some groups of people that are blessed. I’d like to quote it, because I think we draw some of our wrong ideas about wealth and poverty from a misunderstanding of this grace (teaching).
It kicks off in Matthew 5:3 with, “Blesssed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.“
This verse is commonly misunderstood and misquoted. Let’s be clear, Jesus didn’t say blessed are the poor. But in light of everything else He said, He might as well have…and He could have. But specifically, though, Jesus was talking about an attitude or a state of the soul. Some people translate ‘poor in spirit’ to mean ‘sad’ or ‘broken.’ It can also mean ‘humble.’ It refers to those who feel at loss and are in want of God to replenish their spirit. It’s not really about material circumstance.
Either way, the blessing is given to UPLIFT those who are so depressed, not to ENCOURAGE them to remain depressed. It is saying, if you recognise your need for God, you are blessed, because such a realisation will cause you to seek Him, and when you do, you will find Him as your HEALER and COMFORTER.
Jesus went on to say, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted…” (verse 4).
Does this mean that Jesus wants you to mourn? To be in sorrow or grief? No. He doesn’t want bad things to happen to you to make you cry, but even if they do, Jesus wants you to know that in that trial, suffering, pain you are going through, GOD IS EVER CLOSE TO YOU. The Bible says, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit…” (Psalm 34:18). When you feel oppressed and overcome, like you have no one in your corner, that is when you realise that God is in your corner, as He comes to comfort the hurting. He is the lifter of your head… (Psalm 3:3).
“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth…” (verse 5)
The meek are the children of God, they have the mind, heart, and will of God. They are humble, gentle, gracious, long-suffering peace makers. They trust God to fight their battles and are content in Him… They wait on Him. They are just the kind of people who will be trusted to take care of the Earth, because God can trust them to be faithful. This is something we should strive to be, like Jesus. Whether you are rich or poor materially, you can be meek. Job was meek, and so, what he lost was restored to him. He could be trusted.
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled…” (verse 6).
Here Jesus tells us what to hunger and thirst after – RIGHTEOUSNESS. Not riches. Holiness should be our motivation. It should be our desire to be like God, perfect as He is (Matt 5:48). This is an everlasting hungering, because we can never be FULL of God, though we are FILLED from our hungering and thirsting continually. Like food, we will to hunger and thirst for God daily if RIGHTEOUSNESS is our appetite, our desire. There won’t be a day that our spirit doesn’t grumble out of a desire to be filled with more of God. So superior is this desire for righteousness above riches that Jesus tells us to “labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life…” (John 6:27).
Jesus doesn’t need to tell us to hunger and thirst for food. Our bodies do so naturally. And if we don’t feed them, we will die. But if we make them our motivation, if we make it our purpose, we will substitute the temporal for the eternal, a very unwise trade-off. So, rather, we ought to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all these things shall be added…” to us as well (Matt 6:33). That is not a promise of lack but of sufficiency. We serve an all-sufficient God. If we are poor, it is not because it is the best God can do for us… There is more materially and spiritually to be gained from following Him (John 10:10).
“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy…” (verse 7).
I think this is the easiest to understand. If we want to receive mercy, then we ought to give it. Those who are generous with mercy and compassionate will find that God is generous to them also. And those who withhold it, will be denied the mercy of God. Jesus said it more clearly when He said, “if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses…” (Matt 6:15). Also, we ought to “do to others as we would have done to us…” (Luke 6:31), which is the translation of God’s commandmemt to love others as we love ourselves (Mark 12:31).
“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God…” (verse 8).
Those who are pure in heart are guileless. They are those who “do not delight in evil, but rejoice in the truth…” (1 Cor 13:6). They are kindhearted, always seeing and wishing the best in others. Maybe that is why they will SEE God. They always see Him in others. Jesus said, “in as much as you did it unto [them], you did it unto Me…” (Matt 25:40). Such “entertain angels unaware…” (Heb 13:2).
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God…” (verse 9).
The peacemakers are like their Father, desiring the reconciliation and healing of the nations. Their desire is like God’s; “that all men…be saved and…come to the knowledge of the truth…” (1 Tim 2:4). They do their Father’s work of ministry and deliverance, through the preaching of the Truth…the one that sets people free (John 8:32).
“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…” (verse 10).
The Lord tells us that we will be persecuted for following Him… (Matt 10:22). Paul affirms this in teaching Timothy that “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Tim 3:12). But God doesn’t wish for us to go through persecution. It is just the reality of the choice we make to follow Him. By following Him, we make ourselves strangers of this world, and the world hates those who do not conform to its mould, its values, hence persecution is inevitable. But because of this estrangement (if we are indeed estranged for righteousness’ sake), we can be encouraged and take delight in knowing that we belong to the Kingdom of Heaven, though we may not belong here…
And finally, “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you…” (verses 11-12).
So, not only is persecution inevitable, it is a mark, like a badge of honour. Any scar we bear on our body for suffering and enduring for Christ is like a medal or title of honour. Though they mean for us to be fearful and ashamed, we should rather rejoice and be glad! It doesn’t mean we should seek or invite persecution or trouble… That will certainly be foolish. But as we go along on the way of righteousness, we should both expect and prepare for it, and react with joy, because it is like a confirmation that we are doing something right…that we are counted among them who accomplished wonderful things for God.
Persecution is evil, it is what evil people do. Oppression is evil. Victimisation is evil. Suffering is evil. Sickness is evil. Untimely death is evil. Poverty also is evil. It is not good. These things have no place in Heaven. God doesn’t even want us to be overcome by them on Earth.
He asks us to trust Him. Obey Him. Ask of Him. And like a father, who loves to give good gifts to his children, so God delights in giving us good things.
Sometimes, we lack because we are ignorant. Sometimes, we lack because we do not ask. Sometimes, we lack because we are oppressed. Sometimes, we lack because we are lazy. Sometimes, we lack becauss of misfortune. And sometimes, we lack because of sin in our lives… But that is not God’s will for us.
In all things, if we know who we are in God, we will know that He is both able and willing to do above what we can ask or imagine. We will not hinder His provision with unbelief, complacency, or a ‘poverty mentality.’ We will also work, knowing He desires our prosperity, in body, mind, heart, and spirit.
“And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory…” (Phil 4:19).
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