Tag Archive | "Jacob Marley’s ghost"

Wealth in Poverty

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Beatitude

To Jesus in the Gospel of Saint Luke is attributed the expression “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”  For me and, I am certain, most others, the thought of impoverishment is anything but a “blessed” state in which to find oneself, whether one’s poverty is material or spiritual.  And so, is Jesus telling his audience to hang in there and suffer in this life to be rewarded in the hereafter?  Perhaps, but I think not.

 

I believe that the meaning has more to do about the nature of poverty, rather than its earthly manifestations.  One who is impoverished lacks the resources to adequately provide for himself and, by extension, others dependent upon him.  These resources are in part material, like money and property, but also spiritual, as in strength, confidence, vigor, and other intangible assets.

 

Those in the throes of poverty are emptied of all resources, like a once overflowing stream reduced to a trickle by a lengthy drought.  Bereft of most forms of sustenance including, in many cases, their human dignity, the impoverished cannot be said to live so much as exist.  Surely, no one would willingly submit to such an existence.

 

And yet, the state of impoverishment can be a “blessing,” depending upon your perspective.  In common understanding, wealth is synonymous with material gain and pride in achievement or station in life.  To be and to remain “wealthy,” however, requires maintenance, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  How many of us have come to the realization that our material possessions own us?  How mentally and physically draining is it to preserve one’s reputation, image, or area of expertise?  How often has ego, born of confidence and unrealistically high personal expectations, limited our abilities to relate on a purely human level with others?

 

Wealth creates its own baggage in life and, like the links of the chain borne by Jacob Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens’ classic – “A Christmas Carol,” its weight can grow over time, robbing its possessors of the freedom that they believe it provides them.  Poverty, in contrast, can be liberating.  Unfettered from concerns about possessions and social standing, the impoverished, emptied spirit can humbly seek new opportunities, form new opinions, and establish new relationships.  It is this “blessed” state of poverty that I believe Jesus was establishing as a condition for those seeking initiation into the “kingdom of God.”

 

As so often is the case, meaning in life is defined by contradiction.  In weakness, one is strong.  Through despair comes hope and compassion.  In humility, one is glorified.  In poverty, one gains true wealth.

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