poor in spirit?

I was writing to a friend just now and quoted parts of this thing I wrote a while a back:

When I talk to fellow Christians about wealth, they usually say: "There's nothing wrong with having money, as long as you're not attached to it."

Or something along those lines. But when I read Jesus' words in the Gospels and note his way of life, I couldn't help feeling dissatisfied with that answer. Great struggle with this issue led me to an understanding almost identical to Jacques Ellul's (as presented in Money & Power).

The question I'm most interested in is this: Does becoming "poor in spirit" include giving up material wealth? (This would be an issue for most Christians in our country, in my opinion.)

Ellul insists that true, complete "poverty of spirit" includes a call to give up material wealth. Material poverty alone does not make us "poor in spirit," of course. Our heart has to be right. But Ellul seems to think that as our heart becomes more united with Jesus, it will lead us to also become more like Jesus (was) in material wealth.

But I'll let Ellul speak for himself. I was especially struck by this passage:
There is no real poverty that is not material. We affirm that the Bible habitually rejects the possibility of poverty in spirit when a person is rich in money. It is much too easy when we are rich in money to talk as if we were poor, to speak of spiritual detachment, and so forth. The Bible expressly condemns this attitude. We do not need to tell the story of the rich young man, which is characteristic enough; but it is good that we encounter a text in Proverbs which is singularly explicit about this: "[A man] pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth" (Prov. 13:7). It is worth noting that the Hebrew word used here is not the one designating the authentic poor person, but rather a pejorative term whose root implies the idea of sin, impiety and lying.

But the second element of this poverty is spiritual. It is not enough to be poor in money. It is also important to be poor in spirit. The inner attitude of humility is necessary. This is neither kindness nor virtue; it is simply an agreement between spiritual life and material condition.
Ellul uses the story of the rich young man (Mt 19:16-22) to outline the ideal he sees:
We see in this story everything we have described up to this point: material emptying ("sell what you possess"), spiritual emptying ("follow me"), joining the ranks of the poor without there being any social solution, without any amelioration of their fate ("give to the poor").
And (unlike most preachers on this topic) Ellul is crystal clear about where his conclusions lead, in practical terms. He recommends specific (quite radical) actions for Christians:
We have very clear indications that money, in the Christian life, is made in order to be given away. Note especially Paul's lovely text (2 Cor. 8:10-15) based on the law about manna given in the wilderness: "He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack" (verse 15). If among fellow Christians we study Paul's law of equality, we see that money must be used to meet our needs, and that everything left over must be given away. There is no place for savings accounts. If it is necessary to earn money, it is "so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work" (2 Cor. 9:8). If we really worked in order to give away the money we earned, that would undoubtedly set limits to the thirst for money which can possess us!
Now, Ellul is NOT saying that material poverty is required for salvation. His discussion is about what is the best way to live--ethics, in other words:
We must not be confused: the subject here is not salvation. Salvation is entrusted to God's grace, and nowhere are we told that this rich young man is lost; in fact, the implication is quite otherwise. The subject is our attitude, our life, our response to God's question about our actions and our concept of life. Here and nowhere else we are at the heart of the whole problem of ethics. The story itself tells us this: "If you would be perfect," Jesus says to the rich young man. [my italics]
He is very careful to say that giving away possessions or living with very few material things does not "earn" salvation or favor with God. But Ellul does seem to believe that such behavior should be the result as we shift our allegiance more and more from Mammon to God. It's not a question of initial conversion, but of growth and maturity. It's not a question of being saved, but of being made more and more perfect by the power of the Holy Spirit. And it's a challenge: Are we accepting the call of the Spirit?
Remember that even giving all we possess will not pardon our sins or redeem us or draw God's attention to us. All this gift can do is express the enthusiasm of our love and gratitude, and because of this it is an act of freedom and joy. If we feel too much sadness in giving, if we feel torn or irritated, it is better not to give. But we must clearly understand what this means: it means that we are still under Mammon's power, that we love our money more than God, that we have not completely understood forgiveness and grace. This is what the end of the young man's story means. "He went away sorrowful" (Mt 19:22). He was sorrowful not so much because he had been given an order he could not follow, as because he felt far away from God's grace. And as long as this healthy sorrow lasts, if we are not right with God we will at least feel the call to give, which comes from God in his love.

This act [giving all we posses] which only a few people carry out (and this does happen) must remain a call for all of us, a promise, but also a judgment on what we are not doing ourselves.