The Poverty of Riches

Do you struggle to make ends meet, dear Christian?  Are there days, weeks…perhaps months when you cannot even find the ends?  Be encouraged.

My husband and I joke about this interchange from “Fiddler on the Roof”:

Perchik: Money is the world’s curse.

Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it! And may I never recover!

Scripture tells us that “the love of money” (not money itself, mind you) is the root of all evil.  That is, the love of having…finding security in the material and allowing that to be the barometer of our happiness.  We also know, if we’ve read our Bibles to any extent, that those who do not want for anything materially often do not see their soul’s need.  The adversary, the deceiver, the Father of Lies, convinces them that they have all they could ever want (but oddly, they are never satisfied…there is always someone who has something newer, bigger, or somehow more desirable…because the heart is never satisfied with any amount of anything in this earthly plain).  The human heart was created with a capacity for perfect fullness, and we clamor for it, but it cannot be satiated in this life.  In His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore.

We marvel at Christians who are very wealthy, and we (if we are honest with ourselves) think what a challenge it would be to have so much and not want to snuggle down and find comfort in it…although, we are quick to agree we’d like to give it a shot! 😉   True, there are some, I believe, whom God blesses with abundance because they have not been able to see His goodness and find their faith strengthened in want.  Some, but not all.  But I want you to consider something new.

Has it occurred to you, believer, that perhaps God has entrusted you with little on purpose?  That He has appointed you to have scarcity of earthly goods…because the world simply cannot understand contentment in that state of being?  They will look upon those who are prosperous and say, “I can understand why they love God…they have everything” (think of Satan’s assessment of Job here).  But, when someone who is in poverty demonstrates great devotion, contentment, rest in their spirit apart from material comfort and security, that gives them something new to consider (and Job had this experience as well, didn’t he?).  Joy in perceived poverty (I say this because others may believe one to be suffering who is at the same time “rich toward God“) is an enigma to the world.  Remember those terms, “stranger in a strange land” and “peculiar people”?  What if this is what God desires for you?

In the play mentioned above, is Tevye’s famous song, “If I Were a Rich Man.”  He lists all the things he would do if he was a wealthy man.  We all have these aspirations.  Catalogs and window shopping kindle in most of us that “if only…” feeling.  Can you see why Paul said that “godliness with contentment is great gain”? True contentment is an uncommon thing.  Will you seek it?

This is one of my favorite hymn texts by William Cowper (whose life was fraught with many circumstances that would cultivate great discontent):

Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord, who rises with healing in His wings:
When comforts are declining, He grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.

In holy contemplation we sweetly then pursue
The theme of God’s salvation, and find it ever new.
Set free from present sorrow, we cheerfully can say,
Let the unknown tomorrow bring with it what it may.

It can bring with it nothing but He will bear us through;
Who gives the lilies clothing will clothe His people, too;
Beneath the spreading heavens, no creature but is fed;
And He Who feeds the ravens will give His children bread.

Though vine nor fig tree neither their wonted fruit should bear,
Though all the field should wither, nor flocks nor herds be there;
Yet God the same abiding, His praise shall tune my voice,
For while in Him confiding, I cannot but rejoice.

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