Today I met with a friend who is going through some hard times. She works full-time and is raising a family and last week her husband was diagnosed with a debilitating chronic illness. She is currently in the process of moving, because they couldn’t really afford the rent she was paying on her last home and needed to find something more affordable. The problem is that the home she can afford is in a neighborhood that is a little sketchy. She is feeling discouraged and sad because she wants her kids to live in a nice place. She wants a decent home and safety and decent neighbors like we all do.
I know a little about what that is like since I live in a place many consider sketchy as well. Over the many years that we have lived here, our home has been broken into and ransacked, our cars have been vandalized, our garage tagged with graffiti and more than a few persons have been murdered within a block or so of our front door. But, in spite of that, God has blessed our family and our children. We have had many good times, good neighbors and good memories in our years here.
Even so, I cannot minimize the sadness my friend feels because she cannot afford something nicer. She tells me that she is tired of being poor. Sometimes our finances are strained and there are times when I wish we had the money for our family to be able to do certain things or fix things in our house the way I would like to do, but I don’t know what it is like to struggle for survival all the time, when one setback can mean huge consequences for your family. It is no easy job being poor in America. Her pain is real.
There are some things, though, that I do know. James 2: 5 says: “Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?” I do know that being poor is nothing to be ashamed of in God’s kingdom. American culture worships wealth and success. But American culture is no reflection of God’s culture. The book of James is full of instruction and admonition to a church that was giving the front seat to those with power and wealth. That is not kingdom culture. God does not defer to the wealthy.
God has chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith. Living by faith means to keep following God and doing what is right. My friend and I talked about the Old Testament Joseph, who, when bad things were happening, kept choosing to honor God and do the right thing, even when the right thing landed him in prison. Can God bring good things even when we have to endure less-than-ideal circumstances?
God knows that it is not easy for a poor person in America to keep doing right. There are many injustices in our very system that encourage people to do something else.
But, I know God loves my friend and her family. I believe that God will honor her and her family and will help her children, even in these circumstances that she would not choose. Her part is to trust God for the faith to keep on and to keep trying every day to love God and do what is right. Pray with me that she and her family would continue to trust God so that she will be heir to the real fortune, the one that thieves cannot steal and rust cannot destroy. May we all know our true poverty and rejoice only in what is true wealth.