Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Embracing Lady Poverty...

How can we embrace poverty as a way to God when everyone around us wants to become rich? Poverty has many forms. We have to ask ourselves: "What is my poverty?" Is it lack of money, lack of emotional stability, lack of a loving partner, lack of security, lack of safety, lack of self-confidence? Each human being has a place of poverty. That's the place where God wants to dwell! "How blessed are the poor," Jesus says (Matthew 5:3). This means that our blessing is hidden in our poverty.

We are so inclined to cover up our poverty and ignore it that we often miss the opportunity to discover God, who dwells in it. Let's dare to see our poverty as the land where our treasure is hidden.

Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey

This is interesting. Certainly Nouwen is right when he speaks of God blessing us in our weakness. As Paul said (2 Corinthians 9.10 NIV) "That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." But so was Francis of Assisi when he spoke of his love for Lady Poverty, and so is our TSSF Rule when it says, "Tertiaries seek to live joyfully a life of simplicity, humble service and self discipline after the example of St Francis."

Our poverty is more than an absence of physical riches; but it is not less than that. The TSSF Principles (11) state that "[w]e as Tertiaries, though we possess property and earn money to support ourselves and our families, show ourselves true followers of Christ and of Saint Francis by our readiness to live simply and to share with others. We recognise that some of our members may be called to a literal following of Saint Francis in a life of extreme simplicity. All of us, however, accept that we avoid luxury and waste, and regard our possessions as being held in trust for God."

It's not that money is the root of all evil, it's that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6.10). As William Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us; late and soon,/Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:/Little we see in Nature that is ours;/We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"

But God can use even this. Our place of greatest weakness is the place he reaches out to with Christ's pierced hand, the hand that set the stars in place. That is the strength of the weakness of the Cross, of the Christ "who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing." (Philippians 2.6-7 NIV)

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8.28 NIV, emphasis mine)


  1. Well said. I have often thought the same thing when I read this excerpt by Nouwen.


  2. I am curiously relieved to be able to embrace the poverty that is mine. When I think of it, elements of this poverty have been Divine dwelling places. What a door opens for me!

    Thanks again for sharing something so rich, Mike.

  3. I too am drawn to a life of simplicity, but must acknowledge also the material blessings that have been provided for myself and my family. I try to use them for helping others, and am focusing on "poverty" now in terms of humility, of a real awareness of how completely impoverished I am without His grace.