The Virtue Of Being Poor

June 19, 2014

The Virtue of Being Poor

“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need”(Philippians 4:12).

Being poor doesn’t have to be a curse for us.  It can actually bring out the best in us.  It depends, of course, on our attitude towards poverty.  It can cause us to feel sorry for ourselves and be bitter towards life.  If we allow that to happen, it will affect our relationship towards others.  It may cause us to resent those who have more than we do, and say, “It’s unjust.” Living with bitterness is detrimental to our well-being.  It is also possible to give into despair and think, “There is no hope for me.  I’m just destined to be poor.”  If we think that way we will go through life feeling sorry for ourselves.  We won’t make any effort to improve ourselves.

Socialism promotes the thinking that wealth must be equally distributed.  They say that it is the obligation of the rich to share their wealth with the poor.  Most of those who say that are hypocrites because they don’t practice it on a personal level.  They leave it to the government to carry it out by taxing the rich, so they can give it to the poor.  That makes it appear as though the government is the benefactor of the poor.  This practice discounts the hard work and human effort that enables some to have more than others.  At the same time, it overlooks the fact that many of the poor are that way because they are lethargic and lazy.  The result is that it discourages the diligent, and it leaves the poor without initiative to do what they can and should to improve their situation.  It also discourages the wealthy from helping the poor.  They have reason for saying, “Why should I help them?  The government is helping them with my tax dollars.”

Let’s look at some of the virtues of having the right attitude toward poverty.

Poverty should motivate us to be prudent in the administration of what we have.  We should take good care of what we have and make it last as long as we can.  It also means we need to be careful about how we spend our money.  We need to make sure our needs are met before we spend money on luxury.  Being thrifty is a virtue.

Another virtue that results from poverty is that it stimulates us to have self-discipline.  Hunger should motivate us to work hard, or look for work if we are unemployed.  In II Thessalonians 3:10 the Apostle Paul wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”

Need should motivate us to learn and find a way.  In America, if something is broken we most often throw it away and buy a new one.  During our time in Argentina we noticed that they often find ways of fixing broken things and making them last longer.  For them, buying a new one isn’t always an option.  If a poor man’s shirt is torn, he may not be able to buy a new one or pay someone to fix it.  His only option may be that of finding a needle and thread and fixing it himself.  That stimulates ingenuity.  It is a learning experience for him.  He is learning a lesson a rich man may never learn.  The poor man learns how to fix up his own house.  He learns how to plant and tend a garden.  He learns how to build a storage shed or put an addition on his house.  The old saying is, “Where there is a will, there is a way.

For most of us, it isn’t God’s will for us to have everything this world has to offer.  We can’t agree with those who preach a “prosperity gospel” which says that it isn’t God’s will for his people to be poor. Christians need to learn to be content with what they have.   The Apostle Paul said in I Timothy 6:6-8, “But godliness with contentment is great gain.   For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.  And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”  Philippians 4:11 says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” Fortunate is the one who has learned this.  Luke 12:15 says, “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

Another virtue of poverty is that it should teach us to be grateful for what we have.  A sirloin steak dinner tastes the same for a rich man as it does for a poor man.  The difference is that the poor man is more grateful for it because he doesn’t often get one.  Having an abundance doesn’t guarantee happiness.  Once someone asked Nelson Rockefeller what it would take to make him happy.  It is reported that he said, “Just a million dollars more.”

It isn’t a disgrace to be poor.  Abraham Lincoln said “It must be that God loves the common man.  If not, he wouldn’t have made so many of them.” It appears as though we could say the same in regard to the poor.  Jesus said in Matthew 26:11 “For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.”  Our standing before God doesn’t depend on our economic level.  James 2:5 says, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”

Are you poor?  If so, have the right attitude towards it.  Don’t be bitter or feel sorry for yourself.   Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Are you doing all you can to help yourself?  Many great men grew up in poverty.  It taught them some valuable lessons.  They didn’t let it discourage them from doing their best.

Some find themselves in poverty because of a hardship or misfortune.  Some with handicaps have accomplished great things in spite of their handicap.  Fanny Crosby was blind, but she wrote some great hymns of the faith that Christians still sing.  Some have made a name for themselves even though they were confined to a wheel chair.  Some have been left in poverty because they were defrauded, or thieves stole nearly everything they had.  To be sure, they were heartbroken at the time, but they didn’t let it stop them from pressing on to regain and restore what they lost.

Which side of poverty are you on?  Are you one of those who has been blessed with abundance?  If so, use it to help the poor.  You can enjoy the blessings of the Lord by helping the poor. Proverbs 19:17 says, “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” If you are one of the poor, look for ways of making it a virtue.  It isn’t a curse of God on you.  It can be a means of drawing you closer to God, and you can experience the excitement of seeing how God can supply your needs. If God gives you more, thank him for it.  If not, trust the promises of God like the one found in Philippians 4:19.  “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

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