Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Power of Poverty

Recently, I was reading through my friend Becky’s blog and chanced upon this quote below from a book written by Thomas Dubay called “Happy Are You Poor.”

“It must be noticed that the values of the kingdom are just about 180 degrees removed from the values of the world…What are the world’s basic values?...It is assumed that every one knows them and that most people live by them. What are these premises: prestige is a primary value… bodily comfort and pleasure are indispensable… this life is all we have, and so let’s enjoy it to the full… impressing people with one’s possessions and accomplishments and attractiveness is important… sexual excitement and satisfaction are crucial… success is ‘coming out on top’ in relation to others… money is a must, for without it one can have very little of anything else worth having in life.

“If we turn to the pages of the New Testament we find a picture as opposite as it could be: humility, being last, unknown, hidden in Christ, is a condition for getting into the kingdom… prestige is worthless and even an obstacle to greatness… the hard road and the narrow gate, carrying the cross every day is immensely important… dying to our selfishness and crucifying our illusory desires are indispensable… impressing people is of no importance at all, whereas being pleasing to the divine eyes is everything… virginity is a favored and privileged state, and chaste fidelity in marriage mirrors the very union of Christ and his Church… one may not try to best others; rather he is to serve them as though he were a slave… it most difficult, indeed it is humanly impossible, for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of heaven…It takes little imagination to see that one who freely chooses to be poor is far more prepared to understand the previous paragraph than one who is surrounded with luxury, comfort, pleasures of sense, who basks in prestige and position, who lives only for the good opinion of other human beings.”

-Thomas Dubay, Happy Are You Poor, pp. 57-58

The moment I read this quote my soul was convicted and my spirit was awakened to what it means to truly live as a saint. To live as a saint one must renounce the love of this world: 1) Lust of the flesh 2) Lust of the eyes 3) Pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). In order to do this, one must be detached from worldly things and walk in humility as one who looks to please God and not men. Poverty has much to do with both of these concepts.

The next day after reading this quote on her blog we met to talk and she randomly said, “If you are called to Hollywood you should read this book by Thomas Dubay…” I knew exactly what book she was referring to, more so, I knew God was speaking loud and clear to change my worldly values to godly ones. I have thus been reading Dubay’s book on factual frugality, often times weeping under the spirit of conviction as I read. To be poor in spirit, soul and body is a call to live a life of sparing-sharing, not hoarding but being always ready to give to those in need. Jesus called us to be in the world, but not of it. We are pilgrims in this world. Our true home is not here but in eternity. Our hearts are not to be set on the things of this world, but on things eternal.

After living in Hollywood, Ca for the last 3 years I must confess that the value system of Hollywood has at times enticed me to live according to its value system, not God’s. Yet, God’s value system is completely upside down from Hollywood’s, let alone the worlds. Jesus is the best example of a Saint who lived in this world, but free from its entanglements. He was not controlled by people or things, but He was controlled by the will of His heavenly Father. My prayer is the Lord would teach me to live in simplicity, true sainthood and to be free from all that is evil and selfish. People in the world can tell if you are a true saint, one who is not out to promote oneself or one’s agenda, but one who is totally and completely given to the Lord and serving others. I have failed many times in being selfish instead of self-less. Faith without deeds is worth nothing. I pray I would be one who doesn’t carry the title “Christian” but rather one who is known to love. To love others as I would love myself, to love each in a way God would love them.

“Lord Jesus, forgive me for the deceitfulness of my heart in desiring anything besides You. For nothing can satisfy me apart from Your very Word and precious presence.”

“They are blessed, (happy condition) who are poor in spirit, for they have the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3)… “If I am filled with myself, married to my own ideas and way of doing things, convinced that somehow I am the hub of the universe, there is of course no room in me for being filled with God, for accepting or even desiring His wisdom, for making Him my center of gravity. Indeed, sensitivity to the divine is dependent on humility…And poverty has a great deal to do with humility. We human beings tend to equate our level of to be with our level of to have. The more we possess, the more we are --- in our own minds. The man with a large estate, several cars, a sizeable portfolio just assumes that he is superior to the slum dweller. The woman who is seldom seen in the same dress is sure that she ranks higher in human society than the dowdy wife whose family is on welfare. Perhaps the chief reason prestige is so immensely important to many people is that the impression they make on others dictates their own value. And an abundance of material things, in their opinion, enhances their prestige. They are living as slaves in the minds of others. Being subject to human evaluations, they are little inclined to the divine…People who by choice embrace a frugal lifestyle assess themselves far more realistically than those who do not. They are free from a subjection to the minds of others. They know of their intrinsic worth before God and do not feel a need for the shoddy props afforded by mere things. Being innerly un-cluttered, they are ready for the divine invasion. It easily happens.

Saint John Chrysostom who calmly endured exile said…

“What are we to fear? Death? “Life to me means Christ, and death is gain.” Exile? “The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord.” The confiscation of our goods? “We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it.” I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth.” (Thomas Dubay, Happy Are You Poor, pg. 59-60)

The above quotations are not an indictment against the wealthy. God blesses the rich and poor. It is a matter of the heart, not of having or not having wealth. But, one can not serve both God and Mammon. You will either love one or the other. Do not love money more than God. Do not desire wealth more than God. Do not pursue prestige, power and position above the Lord your God, if we do we will become spiritually bankrupt, corrupted and unable to receive the kingdom of God. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Let us live to serve others, to promote others above ourselves, to live in meekness and weakness and thereby giving God all the glory. Let us be mindful of the things above and not on the things below. Let us be poor in spirit and be ready to give to those who have a need. For how can we say the love of God is in us if we see a brother or sister in need and not help them with a gift?

1 John 3:16-19
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him.

I have so much more to say, at the end of the day I’m asking that we ask the Lord to test our hearts and rid us of anything other than Himself so that we may be in this world, not of it, but full of the love of God in which this world so desperately needs. Let us not talk Christian, but live Christian by not adhering to this world's value system, but be a reflection of the God and Man Jesus Christ.

Under the mercy,

Jaeson Ma


At 7/23/2008 09:04:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jaeson! This is Sarah from AFF. I'm taking a day off and hanging out at a coffee shop downtown Lawrence. This post is like a wave of purity washing over the reader. It's crazy. It feels really good.
This totally goes along with a couple of dreams I had that I thought might have to do with Southern California. :-)
I thought they might be warning dreams in some way, shape, or form.
I will be praying for you while you are in Cali for as long as you are in Cali. I like the idea of walking in the opposite spirit.
Blessings, friend.
~Sarah Weichhand

At 7/23/2008 07:06:00 PM , Anonymous Shirley said...

Hi Jaeson,

Thanks for the sharing...
God answered my prayer to Him this morning thru this post... as I was comparing my current pay in workplace with the lower pay if I obey His calling to be full time in His ministry...

It reminds me that God should be my center of gravity and "I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth".

At 7/23/2008 09:55:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jaeson,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it is undeniable that the attractions of the world, or the definition of beauty are the total opposite of what God wants us to pursue. Coupled with the fact (for me personally)of seeking God & waiting upon Him for His promises to be fulfilled in my life I must confess is not making it easier.

However (there is always a however), His words stand true, the good work He started in us will be brought to completion & it will ALL work out for good for HE is worthy of us surrending our lives to him. =)

Bless ya heaps.

Timmie (Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia)

At 7/28/2008 11:18:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hellu Jaeson,

I am also very blessed this post. Thank you for posting this post. I was stressed and complained many times on how difficult my life is in Singapore compare if i go back Indonesia, my home country (althou i know that God still wants me to be Sg). Then I listened to John Bevere's sermon about ruling in life. How blessed we are by having tribulation when we follow God. Then i read ur blog.. its very encouraging.

'To be poor in spirit, soul and body is a call to live a life of sparing-sharing, not hoarding but being always ready to give to those in need. Our hearts are not to be set on the things of this world, but on things eternal.'

“They are blessed, (happy condition) who are poor in spirit, for they have the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:3)…

Rina P


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