I also want to qualify what I’m about to say with the fact that I am not talking about having brief financial setbacks. I believe that those are things that happen to everyone at some point. For the sake of my point today, when I talk about being poor, I am referring to people who ALWAYS seem to find themselves in financial emergencies or CONTINUALLY live under the weight of striving to meet even the most basic of needs.
If you wake up every day struggling and stressing about where the day’s provisions are going to come from, if you have a heaviness on your shoulders all of the time due to the innumerable bills and obligations that you are failing to pay off, or if you are constantly feeling like forces of nature are working against you to keep you from getting ahead, I am going to say that there is a pretty good chance that you are not seeking God the way that you should be. This is not ME talking or some right wing conservative opinion either (I am no fan of Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity - trust me), this is straight out of the pages of the Bible.
Matthew 6:33 says, “but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When it says “these things,” it is referring to the verses directly before verse 33 when it is talking about not being anxious (or worried) about what you are going to eat and drink or what you are going to wear. In this passage God promises (and remember that it is impossible for him to lie) that he will provide you with these things. So why do we sometimes find ourselves in a situation where we don’t have them? It’s because we ignore the qualifier. He says that all of these things will be added to you if you seek His kingdom and His righteousness FIRST.
When I was poor, I went to church at least twice a week. I didn’t drink, swear, lie, steal, or cheat on my husband. I was a nice person. I read my Bible. Shoot, I even taught Bible studies. I prayed a lot. I prayed on my face at times begging God to change my circumstances. And many times I was met with what seemed to be God’s silence. I was confused, I was desperate, and sometimes I was just angry. My life was on hold because I felt I was incapable of functioning fully until my physical and material concerns were met. I just didn’t understand why things were the way they were.
What I didn’t realize was that we were kidding ourselves. We weren’t putting spiritual things first. We may have said we were and we honestly may have even believed it at the time, but we weren’t. My husband’s three jobs, which started with good intentions to help us get out of debt, kept him from his family and all spiritual events and activities. From 6 a.m. to after midnight six days a week, he was at work over an hour away. I was so wrapped up in my loneliness and problems that I felt I had nothing to offer to others. I was dishonest with my husband. There were times when I would sneak and buy cigarettes when we didn’t have money to pay bills and he had no idea that I was even smoking. We neglected to show hospitality to people because we were embarrassed of our home and thought that a simple bologna sandwich and some Ramen noodles would not be an appropriate offering to anyone. We only gave to our church or to others from what we had leftover. Giving was not a priority…I mean what did we have to give, right? We weren’t applying Biblical wisdom to our finances (a whole other study could be had on that) and we borrowed from one place to pay off another. And as a result, we strived and strived and strived to get ahead and just treaded water for a year. And then we were broken.
Due to our misplaced priorities and (keeping it real) financial irresponsibility, we hit a low point that forced us to reevaluate our priorities. We hit our faces and opened our hearts and prayed to God NOT to give us money or a certain job, but to just strip us bare and start over. We asked him to just use us for whatever purposes He wanted us for. We prayed that if that meant being poor, we were OK with that as long as we knew it was where HE wanted us to be. We realized that putting God FIRST was not a passive, easy thing to do. It was an extreme lifestyle change that sometimes was scary and looked down on by others who didn’t’ share our spiritual outlook. My husband quit two of his three jobs immediately so that he could focus on what was truly important and he later ended up quitting his full time job in pursuit of full time prison ministry. We made it a point to force ourselves to give to others first, even if we felt like we didn’t have it to give. We struggled against our natural inclinations to do what seemed wise in our own eyes and purposefully applied only Biblical principles to our lives. And as a result, God fulfilled his promises. The next thing we knew, we were finally o.k.
What good are you doing with what you have? The Bible says that He who is faithful in little will be faithful in much (Luke 16:10). Do you share what little you have with others who are in need? Are you like Able who gave God from the first and best of what he had or are you like Cain who gave to God from his leftovers?
Are you looking to fulfill the things in your life that YOU want or are you open to God’s will for you - even if it seems to be leading you somewhere you don’t want to go?
Where is your money going now? Are you spending it on feeding your own addictions? Enabling ungodly lifestyles of others? Inappropriate entertainment? Why do you pray to God and ask him to provide you with money that is ultimately going to fund things He wouldn’t approve of?
We aren’t rich now. We still come to the end of the month and find ourselves really having to be careful about where our money goes. But boy is life different. We no longer stress about the where the money will come from to pay for things that come up - we know that God has it taken care of. Time and time again He has proven that to us. It’s just like He said in the book of Matthew…put ME first (before your own desires, before your job, before each other even) and I promise I will give you the things you need. That truth has always been there, it was just our own blindness and stubbornness that was holding us down. And living in that truth has relieved us from so much bondage and worry.
“He provides food for those that fear him.“ Psalm 111:5
“Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread.” Psalm 37:25