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Is poverty good or evil? Why would anyone say, as I did in India, that it is God’s will for people—pastors, in this case—to be poor?

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2009-02-25_1126_3_NextToDelhiOrphanSchool

Is poverty good or evil?

Is being poor ever something God would require?

When we lived in India, we faced this issue one day with a group of pastors who were struggling with a desperate lack of funds. These men wondered if God wanted them to be poor. In fact, they asked me this very question: “Does God want us to be poor?”

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Let’s ask the Lord to change how we think about possessions and money, that we will think about them the way He does. Let’s ask the Lord to cause us to love Him more than we love the things of this world. Let’s ask Him to open our eyes so that we can see the deceitfulness of riches and to help us understand what stewardship is—taking care of stuff that isn’t ours. We should ask Him to give us a generous, giving heart, like His heart.

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Money doesn’t satisfy us, and it never will. It just doesn’t work that way. No, it won’t be different for you, even if you win the lottery. We can look down through history and find a long, tragic list of people who thought money would do the trick. They were convinced that they could handle it, and ended up sacrificing eternity for a trunk full of gold.

Eternity. It’s a long time.

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Wealth can make me self-sufficient, so that I don’t have to depend upon God. It’s dangerous. Proverbs 30:7-9 says, “Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”

You know well, I’m sure, the parable of the sower. Some seeds fell on the wayside, where Satan came along and took away the word that was sown in their hearts. Some fell on rocky ground and sprang up, but they didn’t last long because of tribulation or persecution.

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Being a true disciple of Jesus in the United States isn’t easy. What lies before us is an issue that is so pervasive in U.S. culture that it’s hard to see it very well until you leave it: materialism.

I’m not going to go off on some anti-materialism diatribe here, because that doesn’t really get us anywhere. However, it is an issue, because as we realized in the first chapter, one of the requirements for being a disciple is that you must be willing to give up everything.

What—and take a vow of poverty?

No. Getting rid of all your stuff isn’t the answer.

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This one of the things Jesus says about wealth:

“Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:32-34 ESV).

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“We have become hopelessly enmeshed in our slavish worship of all that is pleasant, all that is comfortable, all that is material –we worship things, we worship products. Will we ever succeed in shaking off this burden, in giving free rein to the spirit that was breathed into us at birth, that spirit which distinguishes us from the animal world.”

–Alexander Solzhenitsyn

We buy trinkets while the world burns…

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