Why I’m Thankful for Poverty

Just how rich are we Americans?

We’re so rich, our dogs have their own supermarkets.  We’re so rich, our storage garages are larger than the shanties most of the worlds population call home.

And that’s just where we hoard the stuff that couldn’t be crammed in our other garage or thrown in the junk room that’s so overcrowded, an avalanche would occur the second the door is opened.

We’re so rich we have 97 different kinds of Cheerios and 64 variations of Oreos to choose from.   We’re so rich, we don’t have to exert all our energy drawing a days supply of water from a well four miles away.   We don’t even drink the tap water that runs day and night into our palace – that’s just what we use to wash our rear ends in the shower.

And if our air conditioning goes out for an hour or we have to wait six minutes in a supermarket line, we whip out the five hundred dollar computers in our pockets and complain about our gross misfortune to all the world.

We’re so rich, we aren’t even rich.   We’re filthy stinking rich.

The Hebrews dreamed all their lives of a land flowing with milk and honey.   But our land of milk and honey makes their land of milk and honey look like a third world country.   This country I’ve lived so flippantly in, like it was nothing.

We’re so filthy stinking rich, if the impoverished from other countries were to step into our homes or ride in our cars, they would look at us the way we look at Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

It’s not wealth.   It’s super abundance.   It’s lavish splendor.   It’s gluttony.

Like most everyone else today, yes, I’m thankful to be filthy stinking rich.   But that is not what I’m most grateful for.

I’m grateful first and foremost for poverty.

For the destitute woman dropping her two mites into the temple treasury.   For children from the poorest school in Marion County giving more in a food drive than all the schools in the region a year ago (2 ½ tons).

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For the homeless guy pushing a shopping cart barefoot in the street.

I want to hug that guy for ten minutes straight.   I want to love that guy.  Because when I look into his eyes, I see the face of Jesus.

“‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

Jesus was filthy stinking rich.

But when He came down to our mud and muck, He became poor for us.

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He had the ability to choose how He would come here and in what manner He would live.

He could have emptied heaven of all of its angels with trumpets regally blaring as He arrived as the Conquering King on the throne.   His life upon the earth could have been a papacy tour on crystal meth.   Riding in royal chariots.   Living as an imperial Prince.   Dining on the most exotic of foods.   Dressing in the finest of clothing.  Living in the most luxurious of palaces.

Nope.

He chose the polar opposite. He chose abject poverty.   A poor family.   A trough of animal snot and slobber as His big entrance.   One tunic in His wardrobe.   The foxes and birds had better sleeping arrangements than Him.

As creator, He chose His appearance.   He could have made Himself the tallest, darkest, most impossibly handsome man whose ever lived.  Instead, He made Himself the most breath-takingly-grotesque-butt-ugliest person anyone had ever seen.   The kind of face that people “hid their faces from.”

He’s the King of Kings but He got down on His knees and washed the blackened feet of His subjects.   He chose absolute humiliation and disgrace as His fame.   Spat upon.  Battered  in a purple robe as soldiers contemptuously bowed to Him.   The only crown He ever wore was of thorns that was conferred to Him by being gouged into His skull.

He lived in absolute poverty.   And He died in absolute poverty – the death of a criminal, the most hellishly nightmarish death conceivable – morbidly showcased for all to see as a bludgeoned carcass on a cross between two thieves.

Why did He choose abject, rock-bottom poverty?

“That through His poverty, we might become rich.”

This sounds like nonsense to us.

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We aren’t rich.   We’re living paycheck to paycheck.   We have a mountain of debt and overdue payments.   No, Bill Gates is rich.   We are poor.

No, we aren’t rich.   We’re filthy stinking rich.

We’re so filthy stinking rich, we woke up this morning in a warm bed.   In our own room.   In our own home.   With a roof over our head.   With warm water for a shower.  With our own cars sitting in the driveway.

We’ve opened our eyes to a day that billions of people never lived to see in a country where billions of people spent their lives dreaming of, but never getting to see.   We went into our own kitchen and had food to eat this morning.   We went into our room and had an entire closet of clothes to choose from.

We’re breathing.   Our hearts are beating.

But as great as that is, that’s not the kind of riches Jesus became poor to give us.   That’s just the cherry on the top of the sundae.

He died so that spiritually, we could be Bill Gates, when before, we were the barefoot homeless dude arguing with himself in the streets.

In Him, we hit the spiritual jackpot – made alive in Him.   Seated with Him in the heavenly places.   Our every sin forgiven.  Beneficiaries of His kindness and mercy.   Getting to suffer with Him.   Citizens of heaven.   Our names written in heaven.   An inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.   Everlasting life in the presence of all of His glory…

The rich young ruler was monetarily rich.   But he walked away from Jesus impoverished.

Zaccheus was physically rich.   But when Jesus came under his roof, the rich man became rich.  Or as we can say, Jesus was filthy stinking rich and became dirt poor so we could go from dirt poor to filthy stinking rich.

That’s what I’m most grateful for today, tomorrow and every day.   For the gift of poverty.  Because that poverty paved the way to my spiritual prosperity.

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