I have been reading Angela's Ashes: a memoir, by Frank McCourt who paints a vivid picture of the impoverished lifestyle endured by Irish immigrants who came to America looking for a better life. They suffered disease and malnutrition, they went without shoes, and lived in unspeakable housing conditions. The book is a real eye-opener, making one wonder at just how much the human soul can bear because of poverty and misfortune. Thinking of my own childhood, in comparison, I realize that I was not so poor as the McCourts from Limerick, Ireland. And even though we had no indoor plumbing in our house, and no central air or heat, we never went hungry and we always had enough clothes to keep us warm. Lack of proper medical care and poor health and nutrition took the lives of three of the McCourt children. Ignorance and lack of education are also associated with poverty. With all the negatives that are associated with being poor, could there be any advantage to being poor or does poverty only have negative effects?
What does God's Word have to say about being poor? God has compassion for the poor, we read in Psalm 140:12, "I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and justice for the poor," and he expects us to do the same. See Exodus 22:21-27. There is no shame in being poor. In fact, Jesus himself was poor. His parents were poor; they offered a sacrifice of two turtledoves or two young pigeons, rather than a lamb, when they dedicated their new infant to the Lord. When Jesus called his disciples to follow him in Luke 9:58 he warned them that, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." Discipleship comes at a great cost; those who would follow Christ have to forsake all. He goes on to say in Matthew 19:24 that, "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."
From these verses we can gather that being poor does have its advantages and maybe poverty is a blessing. Riches can be a hindrance that keeps us from following Christ; as with the young man in Matthew who asked what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus requires that we give up everything. If our hearts are entangled with wealth and possessions and things, then our hearts do not belong to him; and we are spoiled and think only of ourselves. But Jesus said in Matthew 5:3, those who are poor in spirit are blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of God. The poor in spirit are the submissive ones, the ones with humble hearts. And a humble heart is a heart that will listen and obey; a humble heart is a heart that Christ can use for his glory. On the other hand, a heart that is filled with pride and self is still holding tightly to the things of this world.
I thank God that I was born into 'poor' circumstances, and because I was poor, my heart was humble. I have been blessed through out my life and it has been to my advantage that I grew up in a modest, simple home. I had fewer temptations and less things to ensnare my heart. From my childhood beginnings to the end of my journey, it is his grace that covers me and keeps me and will bring me safely to my eternal home.