On the privilege of being poor

I heard a statement once that true wealth is never having to say no to guacamole at Chipotle. I hear that, because I really love guacamole, but wow–it’s pricey.

It’s easy to be wealthy in America. Granted, the definition of wealth varies from culture to culture, neighborhood to neighborhood, family to family. Wealth can either mean that you have a lot of financial assets at your disposal, or it can mean that you have been blessed with the intangibles of life–health, family, friends, faith, etc.

In my experience, most “good Christians” will say they’re wealthy because of all the blessings God has given them, and that is absolutely true. But for a moment, let’s just get real about this. Because money is real, and the struggles we all face with money are real. So shouldn’t we talk about it?

Little white flower in a Colorado field, Happy Meadows Campground, west of Colorado Springs, CO

Little white flower in a Colorado field, Happy Meadows Campground, west of Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are James 1:9-10.

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them. And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.

I read this passage over and over again the other night, mainly because it just made me smile. The way God sees things is so different from the way we see things. And this passage isn’t talking about being rich in blessings. This is unashamedly talking about finances.

If you don’t have as much money as someone else, be happy. I’m not sure the phrase “boast about” is the best translation. According to the Amplified Version, someone who is in “humble circumstances” should “glory in his high position.” That doesn’t mean you go around bragging about being poor. That’s just silly. But what you are supposed to do is to recognize that God’s trusted you with an awful lot.

It’s hard to even say that you’re poor when God’s given you so much already, but when you don’t have as much money as other people, you have to have more faith. And, honestly, faith isn’t something that everybody has in equal measure. So if you’ve got more faith than finances, you should understand that it’s an honor to live that lifestyle.

But likewise, if you are one of those folks who have a lot of money, you’re not wrong. It’s not bad to have money. It only becomes a problem when you love your money more than you fear God. If you’ve got a lot of money, you should be thankful at how God is humbling you. Because even if you’ve worked your tail off to earn your wealth, you have to be humble enough to accept that it all belongs to God anyway.

In my life, as well as in the lives of most people I know, the part about glorying in my high position in spite of humble circumstances bit is more relevant. I am not wealthy, financially speaking, and–yes–I do sometimes say no to guacamole at Chipotle. But I was okay with that because I’m rich in other ways. I have eternal life guaranteed. I have friends and family who love me unconditionally (which is priceless, because I’m so not worthy of love). I have free, open access to the throne room of God, who created the Universe, and He’s given me permission to ask Him for the desires of my heart. That’s huge!

But I’d never thought of a lack of finances as an honor. That’s what this verse is saying. Isn’t it funny how we silly little humans twist God’s perfect plans all up until they’re unrecognizable?

Don’t misunderstand. We shouldn’t aspire to be poor. That’s not the point. If we aspire to anything, it should be to glorify God. That’s the one thing both poor and rich have in common–recognizing God as the source of true wealth.

So don’t be discouraged if you’re poor. God doesn’t have it out for you. It’s actually the other way around. Being poor is a privilege. Not having the same financial status as others gives you an opportunity to show your faith and share your faith with others.

It’s not easy. But faith never is.

The State of the American Christian

Many Americans are distraught about the state of our country these days, and I’m not speaking politically. Politically, we’re a mess. But many American Christians have given up on this country because it’s so evil.

It’s ironic though, because the Bible makes it pretty clear whose responsibility it is to keep a country or a nation from being evil. The responsibility belongs to the people who believe in Christ. You can’t expect someone who doesn’t know Jesus to act like Him. You can’t expect someone who isn’t a Christian to make choices based on Scripture. God doesn’t expect nonbelievers to obey Him, so why do we?

But those of us who believe in Christ are expected to act like Him, to live our lives based on Scripture, and to obey God. That is our responsibility. So isn’t it possible that America has fallen so far because those who believe in Christ haven’t fulfilled their responsibilities?

America’s trouble isn’t based on the fact that we don’t believe anymore. It stems from the fact that American Christians have forgotten God.

The verse this morning is 2 Chronicles 7:14.

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

This verse is part of God’s response to Solomon after Israel completed the temple where they would worship for hundreds of years. God tells him basically that He will cherish the Temple but that if Solomon’s people turn away from Him, He’ll bring oppression and conquerors to chastise them until they turn back to Him.

Christians are a fickle breed.

We say we follow God but most of the time we follow our own desires. We say we believe in Jesus but we’re too afraid to tell our friends that’s why we don’t act like them anymore. We say we read the Bible but we really spend most of our time watching television. When God directs us to do something, we fabricate reasons why we don’t have to. We say we love everyone but we really only love ourselves. We say we give sacrificially but we really only give enough to make ourselves look good.

Christians are more interested in reality television than reality itself. We hear about destruction and devastation around the world and wonder how the government is going to help. We spend hours on chat rooms and forums debating political opinion with total strangers but won’t talk to someone we love about Christ.

Come on, Christians. Wake up. America is in trouble. And the fault is ours.

No finger pointing at current or past administrations. No blaming specific laws because even if the government took prayer out of schools, there’s no law saying it was outlawed in our homes.

Is it too late for our nation? I don’t think so. At least, I hope not. As long as we’re still here, there’s still hope.

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

My people. God’s people. Us.

Let’s get humble, guys. Let’s stop thinking that the world owes us something. Let’s go back to the God who saved us and forget about everything the world tells us should make us happy. Love God. Love people. Live your life like Christ lived His, and God will sort everything else out.

If we as Christians can do that, God will honor it. And He’ll restore this country to what it used to be.