Where am I rich? Where am I poor?
Mark 12:41-44 says,
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.”
This week I met up with someone who has a completely different set of circumstances to my own. They asked me a lot about how I had been spending my spare time. Did I have hobbies? Did I go out? Did I spend a lot of time with friends? Had I read the latest…. seen the latest……done the latest….
I tried to explain my time poverty over the last 12 years. How every minute had an impossible to do list. How every second had to be multiplied by God himself if I was to get through it alive. I tried to explain how I’d learned to do big things in 5 minute blocks, so that no body died on my watch. I had to explain my decisions to give up all things ‘frivolous’; hobbies, apart from church and connect group (at times even those); books, apart from the bible (at times even that); writing, apart from writing about God (at times even that); social outings, apart from those that would ultimately build up my faith, marriage and family(at times even that), all I held tightly to as a regular activity for me was prayer because it could be done at any time and for my marriage sex ( and I told her I’m writing a whole book about that, in 5 minute intervals, much like this blog.); but she did not respond at all. No nod of understanding. No sigh of pity. No, “Oh I see.” Not even a glazing over with boredom. Just heavy silence.
I could hear the shouting behind the silence. HOW CAN YOU LIVE LIKE THAT!? You are missing out on so much LIFE!
It made me feel like I couldn’t measure up, like I was some kind of underachiever. You simply can’t say anything into that kind of shouty silence, unless you want to bury yourself deeper under judgement.
All my arguments sounded foolish coming out of my mouth and all the while, this person did not offer me their surplus time to use. They only took more of mine.
I prayed about it afterwards, asking God to make me so slippery with his anointing of Holy spirit oil that not one word of the conversation would stick, there would be no foothold for the devil built today! Only, I asked, let His word stick to me instead. Immediately he gave me the verse, Mark 12:44,
They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything–all she had to live on.
I realised that for the last twelve years I have been in time-poverty, true, desperate poverty. All around me, this person included, people I know, have given out of their surplus time, but I had given to God all the time I had to live on and Jesus had seen that, even if the rich had not.
Suddenly I properly understood that our wealth is not just financial. Our wealth is our money, our gifts, our talents, our health, our time, our family, our education, our faith, our prayer. I understood, with the violence and speed of a hurricane, the great divide between the rich and the poor. And I knew that divide was within me right at that moment. I was poor in time but I was rich in forgiveness, compassion and prayer. Had I sent any in that person’s direction lately? More than my surplus?
I was standing in a place where, if I moved in one direction, I could be torn down the middle. If I moved in the other, I would be greatly blessed.
I thought about Jesus on the cross. When people took away the life He had He still gave out of His poverty. We cannot be deceived that Christ’s life was merely taken from Him by force. He gave his life. He gave it away. Out of His poverty he gave the last. He was the one who decided, “It is finished.”
And yet all the while, as He was dying, He poured out what He had in abundance; Compassion and the hope of Glory to the thief beside Him; Forgiveness and understanding to the ones who tormented and crucified Him; Security to His mother and a purpose to His friend; An open door to the Holy Spirit; Faith to the Father.
I could not resent the hours I was giving to this person out of my poverty. Instead I could give everything I had to live on. This person had begged for my time.
Matthew 5:42 says,
Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Plus I could give out of my abundance and not hold anything back. With help from the Holy Spirit I could pour myself out like Jesus did.
Hebrews 13:16 says,
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Time-poor is not my definition. Time-poor is not my identity. It is my circumstance and Christ is above my circumstance. In Christ I am rich in many ways.
Proverbs 19:17 says,
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.
Later that day, I recognised one ‘wealthy’ child in my own family berating a sibling, a ‘poor’ child, for their poverty, because it annoyed her! She is a beautiful singer, he is tone deaf, woefully so, but he was singing a worship song in the car on the way home. He was ‘giving all he had to live on’ and she attacked him, “Stop that mumbling!” At the same time she was only humming. While, she had the capacity to stop traffic with her singing voice, instead she used it to stop her brother, ‘giving all he had’. She could have sung along beside him and lifted him to the greatest heights of musical enjoyment! Like Fleur Delacour, her voice was good enough for both of them, I theenk!
I found myself asking, how often do I do this?
In what areas am I rich?
Acts 20:35 says,
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
I asked myself, where do I only give from my surplus?
Do I share my abundance with the poor?
Or do I be-little others just because I have a head start, and their lack annoys me?
1 John 3:17-18 says,
But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.
Proverbs 14:31 says,
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
Proverbs 22:16 says,
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
And what does God ask of me?
Luke 3:10-11 says,
And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.”
Deuteronomy 15:11 says,
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
Matthew 25:35 says,
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I want to encourage myself and all who are reading to examine yourself. Where are you rich? Once you discover your wealth I want to encourage us both to give! Give not only from our surplus but generously, sacrificially. If we have enough for two or three or four or twenty or a thousand, let’s pour ourselves out and raise up the poor beside us.
Rich and poor can be transient. We are gaining wealth in time, I’ve noticed, I would not say that this year that I am in time poverty anymore. Time-poor yes but poverty-stricken, no. Years ago my husband was in such poor health he could not take himself to the bathroom. That has been a long road from rags to riches but today he is one of the healthiest men of our acquaintance.
We’re you rich but now you are poor? Things change, we cannot be defined by our circumstances but if you become poor suddenly I want to encourage and comfort you.
There is one joy in poverty. When we are desperately poor it is an opportunity for us to understand what it is to be poor in spirit. Poverty of Spirit, being desperately needy towards God is the one poverty that will make us richer, the poorer we become. It is the one poverty that I desire more than any riches in this world.
Matthew 5:3 says,
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Where are you rich? Where are you poor?
Be blessed today, be encouraged to pour yourself out of your poverty and your abundance, pour yourself out of Christ. Remember Jesus sees when you give all you have to live on, and he sees when you give only out of your surplus.
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Lots of love to you,