If you have ever experienced times of financial distress, you are not alone. Countless people are living in poverty. And it would be a mockery of their condition to trivialize the difficulties they are going through.
Yet even in poverty, there are lessons to be learned. It is these trying times that sometimes open our eyes to profound wisdom.
What Are the Lessons We Can Learn From Poverty?
If you are a Christian, what spiritual insights immediately enter your mind when talking about the poor?
For some of us, we may recall the Christian teaching on helping our poor neighbors. Could we ever forget how only those who live a charitable life could enter heaven?
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…’” – Matthew 25:34-35 (NRSVCE)
We may also recall the words of Jesus when He taught about the beatitudes.
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
“Blessed are you who are hungry now,
for you will be filled.
“Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
– Luke 6:20-21 (NRSVCE)
But just how could the poor be blessed when they’re in so much distress? It may not be easy to understand, but with God’s grace, we can find eternal riches even in the midst of poverty.
Here are some Christian lessons we can learn from poverty:
1. A deeper awareness of our dependence on God
When I was undergoing financial distress, I was more aware of my vulnerabilities. I knew that if any kind of emergency happened, I would lack the financial means to help myself and my loved ones. I was then more aware of my dependence upon God’s providence.
2. Humility in receiving help from others
Poverty helps us to become more humble. When we are rich, we may think we don’t need other people for anything. But when we are poor, we become more open to receiving help from others.
“Do you feel self-sufficient, and only offer something and think you have no need of anything? Do you know that you, too, are poor? Do you know the need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by the ones you serve?” – Pope Francis
3. Empathy and compassion for others
Our compassion for our suffering neighbors become deeper when we also experience pain and want. When we are poor, we understand better what poor people have to go through every day. In a way, we also develop more respect for their strength and tenacity.
“The poor give us much more than we give them. They’re such strong people, living day to day with no food…We have so much to learn from them.”– Mother Teresa
4. Wisdom on the frailty and shortness of life
Material riches may distract our minds and make us forget many things. This includes forgetting about our own mortality. We forget that riches won’t protect us forever from death.
Poverty opens our eyes to the fleetingness of life.
5. Ability to see other valuable things in life
Being poor doesn’t mean that you live most of your life in misery. Do we know that many people even seem to be happier than rich people?
It is because many poor people have learned to appreciate the simple yet valuable things in life. Many have time for family and friends. After a hard day’s work, they can share a meal together, laugh and share stories and have a good night’s sleep.
6. A better appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus
Jesus became poor so He could be with us and so that He could save us through His suffering. Being in poverty helps us to better appreciate the difficulties Jesus had to go through because of His great love for us.
“For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” – 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NRSVCE)
7. An opportunity to see God’s miracles
Material wealth sometimes blinds our spiritual eyes. It keeps us from seeing God’s works in our lives.
Instead of seeing money as the only solution to our problems, poverty help us see how God can help us and make a way for us in the midst of our troubles.
Final Thoughts on Riches and Poverty
It isn’t a light matter to experience poverty. That is why God has commanded us to love and help our neighbors in need. But through poverty, we can also learn many valuable things in life. Things we may have forgotten or overlooked while we were distracted by the material riches of this world.
Poverty helps us see the suffering of others. It reminds us of the fleetingness of our earthly life. Most of all, they remind us of God’s wonderful love for us. We recall how Jesus Himself became poor and how much He suffered to save us.
Let us not think that money can solve everything. Wealth is but a tool we should use for charity, and we shouldn’t let it become the master of our souls.
Blessed indeed are the poor in spirit, those people who rely only upon God. For He will never forsake them or let them down.
“When you have nothing left but God, you have more than enough to start over again.”- Mother Teresa
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-21 (NRSVCE)
You may also want to read: “Do You Need To Be Poor To Follow Jesus?”