Honor and Poverty
“Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly … ”- Proverbs 16:19
While Solomon gives us a number of warnings against behavior that can lead to poverty, he does not imply that poverty is always a disgrace. Poverty is only disgraceful when it is the fruit of wrong conduct. There are any number of causes of poverty, some shameful, some honorable. “When adorned with godly integrity, it is most honorable,” Bridges wrote. “Better is the poor man, than he whom riches lift up in his own eyes, and he is given up to his perverseness and folly. Often man puts under his feet those whom God lays in His bosom. [Man] honors the perverse for their riches, and despises the poor for their poverty. ‘But what hath the rich, if he hath not God? And what is a poor man, if he hath God?’ Better to be in a wilderness with God, than in Canaan without Him.”
How many in the church are seduced by Canaan? Too often the church does not treat the poor and the rich as equals among God’s people. As a sad testimony to our worldliness, we often offer the seat of honor to the rich (or the talented), regardless of their character, and shun the simple—the very ones Christ freely embraced.
It is safe to say that few people in the kingdom of God can be entrusted with wealth, fame, and talent without being drawn away from God in some measure. Such was the case with the rich young ruler. He was not willing to sell everything he had to follow Christ—yet this is the very thing Christ demands of all His people. Not that we necessarily become poor, as if poverty had some virtue in and of itself, but that we deny ourselves for the sake of Christ. He also demands that we love brothers and sisters in Him, no matter whether they are rich or poor.
If only we could remember how quickly the sparkles of this world will fade. “Death will strip the poor of his rags, and the rich of his purple, and bring them both ‘naked to the earth, from whence they came’ (Job 1:21).” Such a promise should fill the hearts of the poor with hope as it reminds them that their dignity and their wealth are ultimately in Christ. Such a promise should fill lovers of fame and fortune with remorse and shame as it reminds them of the transience of this life compared to the eternal kingdom of God.
What kind of person impresses you? This week, take note of those people who capture your attention or impress you. What are they like? Are you attracted to their intelligence, appearance, position, etc.? If you do not respect others for their godliness, no matter whether they are poor, confess your arrogance to God.
Passages for Further Study