Poverty or wealth; what a question. Who would willingly choose financial poverty over wealth? I think my parents came close. Being a pastor in small towns in Oklahoma certainly didn’t provide monetary wealth or even a comfortable existence. I remember Mom giving us saltine crackers with grape jelly for a snack because there was no other food in the house, and bologna sandwiches for lunch. I’m sure it concerned her greatly, with several little mouths to feed. I was little enough that life was an adventure. We never went hungry because God, through the congregation, always provided food. (NO welfare!) We wore hand-me-downs, but we were always clean (“Soap is cheap. There’s no excuse to be dirty!”) and we always had something to wear. We lived in old, shabby houses. I loved the old houses, but for my parents, they were something less than pleasant to deal with. I thought they were great fun!
Sharing the Word, and serving the congregation, was a priority for Dad. I can’t imagine having a happier, more loving, childhood. We had struggles, but we went through them as a family. We were wealthy, even though we were poor. It’s like verse 44 in this passage. When the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables to the people, this is His reply:
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: ‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it…. The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” – Matthew 13:13-17,44 NIV
My parents were like the man who found the hidden treasure. Giving up a lucrative business partnership with his dad and brothers and going out to preach the gospel, I guess that is effectively choosing poverty over financial wealth. In the joy of finding Jesus Christ, the real treasure, they gave up the financial gain of the business and “bought” the mission field of rural Oklahoma. How many of us would willingly walk away from our financial security to follow Christ? That is the age-old question Jesus asks.
“Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” – Matthew 10:38-39 NIV
Financial poverty can be spiritual wealth, if chosen for the right reasons. Sometimes, we are stuck in poverty as consequences of our bad choices in life. There’s no joy in this kind of poverty! I spent a number of years in pretty severe financial poverty, and today I am not financially wealthy, by any kind of financial reckoning, but I am incredibly wealthy in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a tremendous wealth in family and friends, and I am blessed to have a comfortable home and companionship. How about you – are you wealthy, or are you stuck in poverty?
(All Scriptures are from http://bible.com)