Jeremiah 22: 21: "I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, I will not listen."
There is nothing that gets our attention more quickly than a touch of poverty. And there is no other human condition, except for serious illness, that so readily enables us to extract the precious from the worthless, the eternal from the futile. For poverty brings the realities of life into focus. Suddenly we no longer take food, clothing, and shelter for granted. We acknowledge that they are gifts from our Father. And we recognize that many of the things that we thought were needs are really only wants.
Perhaps our rudest awakening comes when fear sets in. For the first time we know how secure our possessions and jobs have made us feel. All that time we honestly thought that we were trusting God. Now we must trust Him for our daily bread and we experience that He is the only security that exists.
The lessons of poverty are priceless. Stripped of the luxuries of the world we encounter the true treasures of eternity. Now we are able to extract the lasting and true and let go of the false and temporary. But perhaps its most valuable teaching is in the realm of our personal spiritual growth. If we have been prosperous and successful in the world we have a good self-image and our friends and acquaintances enhance this image by giving us their respect and approval. Suddenly with the onset of poverty, our worldly achievements vanish like the vapor they are and we appear to be failures. Even our Christian friends may judge that we are displeasing God in some way for in many Christian circles prosperity is considered to be God's approval. With very little pride and confidence left we search to discover how God views us. We learn that the only valid question concerning success in the whole universe is -- "Is God pleased with me?"
Bonhoeffer states that when Jesus calls a man, He calls him into a situation where faith is not only possible but necessary. For some of us, poverty is that situation. Cut off from all that has made us feel secure and plunged into insecurity, we learn to trust Jesus alone for everything. I say, "Thank God for poverty". It is one of the most fruitful experiences that can happen to a Christian.
And no, just in case you still feel that poverty is something to be ashamed of:
"God chose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom."
P.S. Whatever makes us feel secure is our god!
"Do not love or cherish the world or the things that are in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him."
1 John 2: 16
"...I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ."
Philippians 2: 8
"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."
(Jim Elliot lost his life trying to reach the Auca Indians in 1956. My soul was jarred -- I wasn't aware at that time that anyone in the world was still actually risking and losing his life for Jesus Christ.)