He’s got this.
P.S. It drives the world crazy.
One of the things I have been shocked to notice lately is that not only do I not mind being poor, I think I might actually like it. How did this come about? It occurred to me that it’s because I’m not actually poor. I am rich. I feel like my heart has so entirely banked on the things that I have in abundance, that I no longer notice the things I don’t have. To the point where there is no comparison. God’s grace abounds in my life. I see Him everywhere and in everything. I have the love of a good man. The kind of love that grows old with you, but still somehow has it going on. (Not only that, but he pays all my bills.) I am surrounded by children, which is another way of saying I am surrounded by blessing. And I eat. I spend my entire monthly budget on food. I am sure I could survive on good fellowship and beans and rice. But you can’t beat good fellowship and peach cobbler. So what does it matter if I don’t have enough left over to go to Target or take the family to Lagoon? It doesn’t even register. Because I am already FULL. I recently sold some things on Ebay and found myself with $120 of discretionary money. At first I was excited, and then I had a panic attack because I could not think of a single thing I wanted. And I’m a girl, and girls want stuff. Right?
Lately, I have noticed more and more the discrepancy between the fullness I feel and the fact that the world keeps bombarding me with the message that I am lacking. Like, what the hey? I saw the poverty guideline chart for the state of Idaho the other day and I’m pretty sure we ranked with the trailer parks and fuzzy slippers people mistakenly wear in Winco. I’m not sure where they get their information, but I think they’re psycho. Because how can I be “poor” when I have everything I need? And would I even want more? I’m not going to say that there is anything wrong with being rich, but I am kind of tired of feeling second-class because we dare to live on a single, blue collar income. That’s not poverty, it’s just not very American. There is a difference. And from what I can see, Jesus is down with lack-luster consumerism and inadequate earthly treasure. Why shouldn’t I be too? (Really, I don’t have enough enthusiasm to be otherwise.)
For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. …
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.
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.
We are so used to hearing about prosperity gospels, but I don’t think anyone ever mentions the “just enough” gospel. Do you have food, clothes, a place to sleep? Good ’nuff. Wait, are you saying you don’t have six Dave Ramsey savings accounts, life insurance, and a college fund for each of your children? Is that even Christian? Heck yeah. There is no Christian watermark of prosperity or worse, “worldy security” (that’s not even a thing, you know). We can be brought low, and we can abound. We are free. Because He will never leave or forsake us. You can be a poor Christian or you can be a rich Christian. Because Christ does not judge us by how much money we make. But the world judges us first and foremost by our income. The world tells us what we need, Christ tells us what we already have.
The only person I ever knew who was audacious enough to endorse poverty was my father. He used to always say that being poor was the best thing that ever happened to us. Which never made the greatest sense to me. But looking back, I can see that there were so many young people in the church who had more money than us, more stability, more privilege, yet never made it out alive. It was like the world ate them. For lunch. It would make sense that the same would have happened to me and my siblings. The odds should have been against us. But as I’ve watched my brother and sisters grow into adults, it is as though they came out refined by fire. Rock solid, good as gold. What was it? Poverty and hard work. The ultimate un-American virtues. While wealth can be a blessing, we are warned over and over not to trust it’s lyin’ black heart. I am not pro-poverty, and don’t get me wrong, I do like me some Kate Spade, and I could probably use a pair of gold Louboutins. But I want to be free to say that not only can we be content in our circumstances, but we can rejoice in them as well. It’s easier to give thanks when we have abundance than when we are in want, but it doesn’t make the latter less true. God says that if you have clothes and if you have food, it is enough. Stop freaking out. And not only that, say thank you. Rejoice. When God says not to be anxious we should grab onto it with both hands. We should say, “Amen, I’ll take your bet and raise you!”
For me, I have started to think of being low income in terms of blessing. Since I’m here already, why not? I am fortunate to be able to raise my kids on Depression values in a time when we all have too much. I mean, how did I get so lucky? One of my friends recently recommended the book, “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World: How One Family Learned That Saying No Can Lead to Life’s Biggest Yes.” And I thought, you know, I probably don’t need that one. The other week we got the neighbor’s paper and out fell the stack of Sunday circulars. Which I simply wasn’t compelled to look at. Do people buy this stuff? Then I remembered the whole world turns on buying and selling. Yet for some reason we are out of the loop. That, and I notice that my children don’t ever ask me for things. Because they didn’t get the memo. They don’t know that we are supposed to want. It’s funny how our needs seem to be compounded by how much we HAVE. It’s crazy. But the less we have, the less we seem to need anything. When you don’t have money you don’t worry about spending it. How convenient is that? It’s like an immunization against consumerism. I also love how hard my children work, because there is SO MUCH WORK. They are being taught to labor, not for profit or their own self-interest, but because it’s just what needs to be done. We don’t have allowances, we have inescapable responsibilities.
For some reason, living at the end of your tether produces this irreplicable tension. It’s something we can’t buy, we can’t fabricate. Heck, we don’t even want it. But just as Adam needed sweat and needed the curse, the inconstancy of life is good for us. It’s the sweet spot. It reminds us where we have our hope. Everything in this world turns back to dust, only one thing is needful. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” So do we have the good portion? And does it fill us? “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.” The world tells me that I am not enough, that I don’t have enough, and that I should live in fear and inadequacy, and for heaven’s sake, stop breeding. But the fact of that matter is that God causes us to flourish, where the world says that we should wither. We overflow. We are satisfied. We are hemmed in by God’s faithfulness, we eat, we rejoice, we love, and perhaps, more importantly, we are being shaped by His good providence. It is all from the hand of the Father. Of course, we can still ruin it. We can whine, covet, and live in fear. Or we can rejoice.