Poverty, peculiar blessings of
One need only read the Blessings of Jesus in Luke 6 to gain a
sense of Jesus' favoritism toward the poor and the disadvantaged:
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God."
But why does Jesus single out the poor and the hungry for
special attention over any other group?
"Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied."
"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh."
"Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and
reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man."
"But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort."
"Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry."
"Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep."
"Woe to you when all men speak well of you" (vv
One writer has pointed out that, in gospel terms, the
disadvantaged have the following "advantages":
So, through no choice of their own (they may desperately wish
otherwise), poor people find themselves in a position more amenable to the grace
of God. They are needy, dependent, and dissatisfied with life; for that reason
they may be more likely than others to welcome God's free gift of love.
- The poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.
- The poor know not
only their dependence on God and on powerful people, but also their
interdependence upon one another.
- The poor rest their security not on things
but on people.
- The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance
and no exaggerated need of privacy.
- The poor expect little from competition
and much from cooperation.
- The poor can distinguish between necessities and
- The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged
patience born of acknowledged dependence.
- The fears of the poor are more
realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive
great suffering and want.
- When the poor have the gospel preached to them, it
sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding.
- The poor can
respond to the call of the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated
totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for
Go back over the list of 10 points above, substituting the
word "rich" for "poor", and changing each sentence accordingly, eg: "The rich do
not know they are in urgent need of redemption." Do these statements generally
hold true? Remember: in Luke 6 above, Jesus does not stop after discussing the
poor -- he goes on to talk about the rich also!
Now, one more exercise; and be warned -- this is something far
Go over the list one more time, substituting the word "I",
making multiple choice statements, eg: "I know/do not know that I am in urgent
need of redemption." "I know/do not know my dependence upon God... "
Evaluate yourself. Honestly, in your case, which option is
In short, in Biblical terms, am I "poor" or "rich"?
- Do I know that I am in urgent need of
- Do I easily acknowledge my needs?
- Do I readily depend on God and on other people?
- Where does my security rest?
- Am I more likely to compete or cooperate?
- Can I distinguish between necessities and
The poor are not necessarily more virtuous than anyone else --
human nature being what it is. But the poor are far less likely to pretend to be
virtuous. They know they are sick, they know they need a physician, and they
know they can't heal themselves or hide behind formalities!
If we are comfortably situated, the words of Jesus above may
sound a little like patronizing slogans, afterthoughts tossed to the
unfortunates of the world: 'Well, since you aren't rich, and your health is bad,
and your face is wet with tears, I'll toss you a few nice phrases to make you
But the words of Jesus are really profound insights into the
mystery of human existence. The poor, the hungry, the mourners, and the
oppressed really are blessed -- not because of their miserable states, of course
(Jesus worked long and hard to remedy those miseries) -- but because of an
innate advantage they hold over those more comfortable and
People who are rich, successful, and beautiful may go through
life relying on their natural gifts. But there is a chance, just a chance, that
people who lack such natural advantages may cry out to God in their time of
And there is a chance, even a slimmer one, that the "rich" can
learn from the "poor" that -- really! -- their fine robes are only moth-eaten
rags, their bank accounts are shadows in the night, their health is the passing
breeze, and their beauty is the flower of the field, that fades in the merest
We have the poor to teach us the value of dependence. Unless
we learn to depend on God we will never experience His grace in His eternal
kingdom when Christ returns.