Ex. 16:18 π Isa. 10:1-2 π Mt. 5:3 π Mt. 6:24 π Mt. 6:33 π Mt. 25:40 π Mt. 25:45 π Lk. 6:20 π Lk. 8:14 π Lk. 9:2-3 π Lk. 11:3 π Lk. 12:20-21 π Lk. 18:24 π Lk. 18:26-27 π Lk. 22:35 π Jn. 8:32 π Acts 17:30 π 1 Cor. 2:12 π 1 Cor. 10:10 π 2 Cor. 7:1 π 2 Cor. 8:13-15 π 2 Cor. 10:12 π Gal. 5:13 π Gal. 5:22-23 π Phlp. 2:4 π Phlp. 3:18-19 π 1 Tim. 6:8 π 2 Tim. 2:19 π Heb. 8:10; 2nd π Jas. 1:9 π Jas. 2:5
Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. ( Lk. 6:20; top )
Though many people refer immediately back to Jesus’ statement in the Sermon on the Mount,
Blessed are the poor in spirit... ( Mt. 5:3; top )
the in spirit part is left out of Luke’s Gospel precisely because of the antithetical nature of God and riches. This raises the question of whether the gospel of the kingdom of God can be truly received by peoples of nations where wealth is the god that is sacrificially served, obeyed and worshiped. It is certain that it cannot be truly presented by rich men who encircle themselves only with other spiritually immature, financially rich men whose wealth is used to support the “ministry.” Make no mistake - the kingdom of God is not a “rich man’s club” operating on the “gentleman’s club” rules of etiquette. It is the living of the life of Christ by the enabling grace of the Spirit of Christ, a life characterized by truth, righteousness and departure from all wickedness. ( 2 Tim. 2:19; top )
Perhaps the greatest sin of countries like the United States is that of neglecting the poor. This is a shocking statement to make in the face of the armies of volunteers and the multiplied millions of dollars spent in the name of “charity” and “foreign aid.” Yet it is nonetheless true. Jesus said, “Whatever you have done - or not done - for the least of My brothers has been done - or not done - unto Me.” ( Mt. 25:40 , 45; top ) The personal nature of ministering to Christ is largely lost in American-style, vicarious-giving “charity.”
For those with a religious, “church” background, it is difficult to even begin to unravel the layers of deception that surround poverty and wealth as they relate to following Christ. We have been inundated with the heretical “prosperity gospel” for so long in this country that anyone who does not have a heap of toys and luxuries to pamper himself and his family with - or at least an overabundance of resources to “do the work of God” - is, at best, a second-rate kind of believer in Christ if not an outright apostate rebel. One denominational teacher is famous for the line “Where God guides, God provides.” But what will God provide when His intent is to confront and confound the deceptions of centuries of false notions that have perverted true followers of Christ into the ways and worship of mammon? (see Mt. 6:24; top )
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah,
Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees...to rob the needy of justice, and to take what is right from the poor of My people. ( Isa. 10:1-2 - emphasis added)
God not only clearly recognizes the fact that poor people are an integral part of His people, He insists upon particularly strict attitudes and treatments toward them. James wrote,
Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? ( Jas. 2:5; top )
The snobbish view of seeing financially impoverished believers as being somehow an inferior class of Christians is the first deception that must be abandoned and replaced with the Scriptural view that the poor brother holds an exalted place (see Jas. 1:9; top ) - a place not to be sought but honored nonetheless.
The second deception that must be exposed, abandoned and replaced is our understanding of “enough.” Early in His three year ministry, Jesus
...sent [His disciples] to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.” ( Lk. 9:2-3; top )
Life on the road then was a lot more dangerous than we can easily envision in our age of cars, buses, trains and airplanes that make long distance travel fairly safe and routine. Weather, accidents, bandits and wild animals were real and common and often lethal concerns for travelers on the roads. The Bible, as do other histories, records many instances of travelers falling victim to these perils. So here, among other reasons, Jesus is instructing His disciples to travel without appropriate supplies and resources so that they can learn a whole new level of dependence upon God. And the result?
And [Jesus] said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, sack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”
So they said, “Nothing.” ( Lk. 22:35; top )
They learned that the things they truly needed, both for life and service to God, were provided - even though the comforts of a life at home with friends and family were denied to them for that time and season.
The need for moment-by-moment reliance upon God cannot be over emphasized. Jesus instructed His followers to pray,
Give us day by day our daily bread. ( Lk. 11:3 - emphasis added)
And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. ( 1 Tim. 6:8; top )
Having only enough daily bread for today is diametrically opposed to the stockpile mentality of most Americans who consider it “necessary” to have a well-stocked refrigerator, freezer, pantry and perhaps even root cellar or else poverty and starvation loom eminent on their horizon.
This is really nothing but hard-hearted unbelief in the faithfulness of God to provide for those who seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. (see Mt. 6:33; top ) Or else this unbelief is the subconscious recognition that God’s kingdom and His righteousness are not really our first and highest priority in life and we are, therefore, not eligible to receive of His faithful provision and we must, therefore, provide for ourselves as if God had truly said, “God helps those who help themselves.” But until we are able to call this self-preserving hoarding and stockpiling by its real name - the sin of unbelief - we are not free to receive the gospel of the kingdom of God. It is probably the greatest deception upon the people of Christ right now that wealthy people, either because their cash flow is restricted or because they know of others who possess more than they, do not believe themselves to be wealthy and therefore they do not take the necessary precautions against the dangers of being wealthy.
The deception surrounding “enough” is further compounded by the modern re-definition of what is a luxury and what is a necessity. In the American scheme, households “require” electricity and running water. This fallacy is contradicted by two incontrovertible facts:
1) Mankind has survived for thousands of years without these two relatively recent inventions and
2) when the electricity and water cease to flow into the house, people do not immediately begin to fall over dead.
Necessities are things like air to breathe, water to drink, light to see, food to eat, clothes to wear, shelter from harsh elements, and other human beings with whom we can interact. Luxuries are everything else that saves time and/or energy or that caters to some aspect of pleasing self. So long as our concept of needs and wants is defined by slick advertising marketeers and not by the Spirit of truth and righteousness, we have no hope of grasping the gospel of the kingdom of God. We may have some intellectual appreciation of what that might mean but until we can correctly label (according to God’s estimations) what in our lives is a need and what is a luxury, we are incapable of experientially attaining the fullness of God’s kingdom.
Once we can spiritually discern between needs and luxuries, differentiating by the leading of God’s Spirit between what is enough and what is excess, we are then in a position to distribute our resources accordingly. Paul wrote,
For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack - that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.” ( 2 Cor. 8:13-15; top )
The reference at the end there is to the gathering of daily manna, the bread from heaven supernaturally provided by God for the Israelites on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. ( Ex. 16:18; top )
God is not calling on wealthy believers to raise poor believers to their level of material goods. He is not calling for a “communistic cell” mentality where all goods are distributed through a specially selected council of “elders” and “apostles.” He is not asking anyone to give more than they have to give.
He is calling upon believers to allow Him to rewrite our internal dictionary (see Heb. 8:10 ) - especially in regards to words such as enough, needs, luxuries and the like. And He is calling for those who are given more than enough to genuinely enter into others’ lives and come alongside these others to determine what those others might lack in respect to fulfilling the call of God on their lives. The wealthy believers are to look to the interests of these others as well as to their own interests. ( Phlp. 2:4 ) The wealthy follower of Christ who builds up (or rents) bigger storage barns or builds for himself a second retirement/getaway home while his brother in Christ has need of daily food or shelter is deeply confused as to why God has allowed him to have so much excess. Such a one will find one day that his very soul is required of him and that the judgment he faces is stern indeed. (see Lk. 12:20-21; top )
It is interesting to note that abundance of resources most often results in an abuse of the necessities of life. Alcoholism, obesity and “high fashion” are all the same sin - overindulgence of the flesh using some excess of a basic life requirement. Neither the alcoholic, the “clothes horse,” nor the overweight man (absent a genuine physical, medical condition) can be as “led by the Spirit of God” as they claim to be for they are sadly lacking in the fruit of God’s Spirit called self-control. (see Gal. 5:22-23 ) Their appetite is their god, not the one true God (see Phlp. 3:18-19 ), and they are using their “Christian liberties” as an opportunity to indulge their flesh. (see Gal. 5:13; top )
The gospel of the kingdom, as was true in the first century, is a message of hope for the poor. Now, as was true then, the vast majority of the wealthy have no real ability to perceive their need for God and they have no intention of sacrificing their wealth by taking up a cross of self-denial and self-sacrificial giving to meet the needs of others. Their desire, security and faith is in their possessions or in their ability to utilize their resources and they have no intention of letting God be their total sufficiency in all things.
“How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
And those who heard [Him say] it said, “Who then can be saved?”
[Jesus] said, “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” ( Lk. 18:24 , 26-27; top )
It is extremely difficult for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom - and only possible through the divine, even special, grace of God. It is a fool who blindly handles his resources to satisfy his own desires - especially his own notions of superficial “charity” and religious duty which most often only bolster his own sense of self-worth. Jesus spoke plainly about the seed, the word of life, being choked off by the thorns, the cares, riches and pleasures of life. ( Lk. 8:14 ) There may be no more subtle deception that diverts us from pure obedience to Christ than our self-satisfying, self-edifying “gifts” to the poor that only reinforce our feelings of superiority and power over the poor. Such “charity” only demonstrates that something other than God’s laws have been written into our hearts and minds. ( Heb. 8:10; top )
Failing to heed all the warnings against the dangers of wealth and mammon - and there are a great many warnings throughout the New Testament - renders one ineligible to enter into or remain within the kingdom of God. Once the King of kings has been received as Savior and Lord, serving any other lord is still treason.
All of this about being poor and how we are to view and treat the poor is an important and irrevocable part of the gospel of the kingdom of God. Embracing all of His kingdom or opposing it are the only two options available as God still commands all men everywhere to repent of all their sinful ways. ( Acts 17:30; top ) Do not be deceived. God is not now - nor ever going to be - changed by the opinions and practices of men.
Another spiritual deception that has been effective in certain “Christian” circles is to get followers of Christ to label other followers of Christ as being possessed of a “spirit of poverty.” There are several problems with this notion, not the least of which is that there is no basis in the Bible to support even the existence of a “spirit of poverty”! Let us look at this from both sides of this accusation.
The people accused of having this “spirit of poverty” gain this label because they express that they have needs - either through simple honest explanation of, sinful complaints about or apologetic excuses for their financial condition. The simple fact that they don’t have enough or that they are poor or that they don’t have the best in provision and have to make do with what they have, is often enough to gain them this label. A careful examination of these things, however, reveals that the reason for this label is only a comparison of these “poor” people to the wealthy, leisure class (those who flagrantly display and even waste their overabundance on themselves) and not a comparison to the sufficient-for-today, contented life in Christ - whereas, if they were compared to this contented standard, it would be readily apparent that these “poor” people suffer no real or substantive lack in provision.
Simply stating one’s relative poverty (in comparison to the wealthy class) while perhaps unwise ( 2 Cor. 10:12 ) does not make one demonized. Complaining about one’s lack (in comparison to the wealthy) is certainly sinful and wrong (see 1 Cor. 10:10; top ) but does not, by itself, indicate demonization. The person who feels it necessary to apologize and make excuses for not having wealth is a victim of the deceptions of mammon but that does not necessarily call for casting out a demonic spirit.
On the other hand, those people accusing others of having a “spirit of poverty” are most often the emulators of the wealthy class and those who do the most to perpetuate the deceptions, bondages and oppressions of having to emulate the wealthy. As such, the label (having a “spirit of poverty”) comes from their own preconceptions and misconceptions (based on the deceptions of mammon) and not from any Holy Spirit discernment. The label enables these false accusers to look down with smug, self-righteous “superiority” upon those they wrongly believe to be demonized with a “spirit of poverty” while they themselves remain ensnared in their own bondages to the spirit of mammon (having to have only the “best,” plenty of stockpiled provisions, plenty of cash in the savings account, etc.) The truth is the label, “spirit of poverty,” comes from the spirit of wealth, mammon, that evil spirit who looks for any way to get us to misuse wealth.
The deception for the accusers is in the standard by which the label is applied (not having as much as the wealthy) and, for the accused, in stirring up envy and discontent. This is indeed a very clever scheme concocted by the ruler of misusing wealth. Few know how to recognize, let alone escape, this trap.
But perhaps the deepest deception is simply for those who hold to the notions of the “spirit of this” and the “spirit of that.” As we have seen in the Bible, the “spirit of something” does not always refer to a demonic spirit nor even to the Spirit of God - it can refer to the human spirit, that is, an attitude, mindset or predisposition of a person or people. (see 1 Cor. 2:12; top for example) Thus, one could indeed have a wrong attitude, mindset or predisposition about money or wealth, thus defiling their own spirit, and these would be labeled as having this so-called “spirit of poverty.” Unfortunately, because of ignorance, those who believe in the “spirit of this” and the “spirit of that” will now try to “cast out” this “spirit of poverty” as if it were a demonic entity when, in fact, it is a human spiritual condition. What these people need is to be enlightened by God’s revelation in the matter so that their wrong attitude, mindset or predisposition simply disappears in the light of truth - not “delivered,” that is, have a demon cast out.
This is why Paul writes of a filthiness of the spirit. ( 2 Cor. 7:1 ) The flesh (sinful, fallen) nature of man is capable of causing us to defile our spirits. And this defilement manifests as what some would call the “spirit of this” or the “spirit of that.” But this spiritual ailment is not cured by casting out the offending spirit - that would be removing the human spirit from the person! No, only the truth can set people free from a defiled spirit. ( Jn. 8:32; top ) If we could all simply abide in Christ, allowing Him and Him only to lead us into and through all aspects of our spiritual life, there would simply be no room for all this confusion.
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