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Seeing Things Differently Now

A conversation with a few friends this morning saw us agreeing that the more money and possessions people have, the less likely they are to share their wealth with others. While there are some very noteworthy exceptions to this principle, generally speaking our observation remains true.

When we talk about poverty our thoughts usually turn to those who live on or below the "poverty line". But I want to suggest that such thinking reveals a very narrow and inadequate definition of the word. It is very possible for those who are financially "well-to-do" to be in the grip of poverty thinking.

Definition:  Poverty = not just the state of not having but the fear of not getting which makes us hold on tightly to what we have lest we lose it".

If that is an accurate definition of poverty, then we need to re-calculate and re-draw that "poverty line" somewhere entirely different because it now embraces many, many more people - especially in the so-called developed world.

Poverty thinking is far more widespread than we have imagined. And it is rife within the Christian Church. I contend that much of the "prosperity gospel" teaching is energised by poverty thinking. People who are impacted by the power of poverty thinking seek the reassurance and security that God wants them to be wealthy and healthy because the fear of not getting and/or the fear of losing what they have has them in its grip.

The link between the material world and the spiritual world is unmistakable. Poverty thinking can impact both realms. Let me invite you to note the following scripture passages and use my brief comments to launch you into a deeper consideration of their application to you - if any.

[1] Haggai 1/2-10.  The people of God were more focused upon their own welfare than on God's Kingdom. The result was the diminishing of material provision and spiritual well-being.

[2] Malachi 3/8-12. Withholding what belongs to God is disobedience and has negative spiritual consequences. Conversely, to honour God with what is His has positive spiritual outcomes

[3] Matthew 6/33. Jesus taught that right spiritual priorities (seeking the Kingdom first) would have positive material consequences (these things will be added to you).

[4] Mark 10/17-25. This is one of those biblical "classics" highlighting the tension between the material and the spiritual. The man is torn between two realms or sets of priorities and the material priorities win the day...and his heart.

[5] 1 Timothy 6/7-10. Here is another example where the pursuit of the material can have faith-destroying consequences. We just cannot sever the link between the spiritual and the material.

[6] 2 Corinthians 8/7-9. Paul does not share our awkwardness when it comes to affirming the close relationship between the spiritual and material dimensions of life. He "marries" the two and will not permit any kind of "divorce".

Over the years a number of my friends have travelled overseas and visited what we would call "poor countries". Their testimony has been both unanimous and disturbing. They have been, to a person, amazed that people who have so little in a material sense can be so happy, so content, so uncomplaining with their lot in life (or with their little in life!)

Meantime, back home, there is so much discontent because of what we don't have. We have built bigger barns (Luke 12/18) but no matter what we have we are not satisfied. Someone once cynically but accurately observed that "enough is always just a little bit more".

The power of poverty thinking distorts our perspective and priorities. It plays havoc with our values. It damages relationships.  

Poverty = not just the state of not having but the fear of not getting which makes us hold on tightly to what we have lest we lose it".


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