"Blessed are you poor"

Working without asking anything in return, and giving not only our excess but all—this seems to be a recipe for disaster. It seems certain to result in abject poverty. And it even seems morally irresponsible, since such uncontrolled giving would result in our own dependence and a lack of resources which would hinder any further giving, and severely limit the amount of people we could help.

Jesus readily agreed that following his example would lead to poverty. But he didn’t seem to think this was unfortunate or irresponsible:

He came down on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples… and he lifted up his eyes on his disciples and said, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Lk 6.17, 20)
Jesus was not commending all poverty; it is obvious that all poverty is not “blessed.” But he clearly thought that the poverty that came to those who followed him was good, a part of experiencing fullness of life, “the kingdom of God,” here on earth.

Jesus’ poverty was just as real, just as weak and vulnerable, as any poverty. The difference was God’s power that responded to that weakness, because it looked to him in faith. Those who give recklessly face the same needs as others, and are just as helpless as other poor people, but the Father who knows their needs can and does inspire others to meet those needs. And then all the needs are met through gift giving instead of business deals. People are drawn together by gratitude and sharing. Work is freed from self-interest and the demand that it “pay the bills.” And while those who follow Jesus in this are humbled and must accept the role of poor servants, they find a common lowliness with others that is good, in which they are all brothers and sisters cared for by the same Father. Who takes their small gifts and does great things with them.

This “works,” and is very good, only because God makes it so. Our contribution is only our faith, our utter dependence on God in our vulnerability and weakness, which can make nothing happen except lead us into poverty. But God has promised to respond to such faith and give us the experience of his kingdom on earth. And this comes without removing poverty, but in the midst of it, so that we must always remain in faith and never rely on our own strength or wealth. And also so we may continue to be examples of faith to others, showing them the way to God, and continue to provide opportunities for God to demonstrate his power, providing for the helpless and making feasts of our small loaves and fishes.