A faithful daily podcast listener named Joe writes in to say this: “Pastor John, do you have any encouragement for those who by sin or by circumstance face a lifetime in unrewarding, insecure, and low-paid work, or who foresee a lifetime of poverty ahead of them, perhaps particularly for those of us who are over the age of thirty?”
Yes. Massive encouragements. Frankly, once upon a time (and probably in most places in the world today) that was normal Christianity. In the West we are wealthy, many of us — that is, food is on our table, a roof is over our head. There may be a car in the driveway. There is a refrigerator. There is medical help. Good night. The middle-class American people are wealthy by all historical standards. But it has not been that way, and so the Bible is written with massive encouragements to the poor. Let me give you some encouragements.
Blessed Are the Poor
Christ became poor and he identified with the poor. 2 Corinthians 8:9: “Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” He means rich in spiritual resources there first, and wealth at the end of the age.
“Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6:20). That is Luke’s version of the beatitude. Not just “Blessed are you who are poor in spirit.” Luke said, “Blessed are you who are poor.” And he meant that God comes in alongside the poor. There is special help for the poor. There is grace for the poor. “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).
The Danger of Riches
Then there is this unbelievably important warning about how dangerous it is to be rich in 1 Timothy 6:6–10:
Godliness with contentment is great gain, 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.
“The way the Bible views things, money is a much greater danger than poverty.”
So Paul does not regard riches as a great benefit there, but a great danger. And Jesus said in Luke 18:24, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And, therefore, the way the Bible views things, money is a much greater danger than poverty.
Heirs of All Things
But now here is the real kicker. This is wonderful. 1 Corinthians 3:21–23: “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” And the reason it says that — to the poor who will inherit the earth — is because we are heirs of God. Romans 8:17: “[We are] heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” We will inherit with him everything he owns.
And in the meantime, Paul says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7–8).
If you are a Christian and you know Christ — Christ is your treasure, your Savior, your Lord, your friend, your king, your future — then you are richer than the richest billionaire on the planet. That is literally true spiritually now, and it is literally true physically (materially) later.
God Will Supply
And in the meantime, Paul says, “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). That doesn’t mean you will get rich. It does mean everything he wants you to do you will have the resources to do. You are going to be supplied. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). This implies that the achievements that count in heaven, that are going to be rewarded by God, are not financial.
“If you know Christ, then you are richer than the richest billionaire on the planet.”
The poor person is at no disadvantage in increasing his reward in heaven. None. Because what is rewarded in heaven is godliness, and faithfulness, and love, and joy, and peace, and kindness, and meekness, and self-control. The poor are at no disadvantage, and perhaps at an advantage.
Poverty Overflows in Generosity
Here is one last thing. When you cast about in the New Testament for an example of who Paul really found to be amazing in generosity and love, and worthy of emulation, his answer is the poor. He said in 2 Corinthians 8:1–2, “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.” In other words, when he chose to motivate the Corinthians to be generous people, he looked to the poorest church — extreme poverty — and he said, “These people are so happy, their abundance of joy is so full, that it is spilling over in generosity.”
So take heart. If you are in a situation where your financial resources are pinched, and it looks like they are going to be pinched to the day you die, you are in a position of extraordinary possibility of blessing people and of enjoying Christ.