We watched a movie recently that highlighted the difference between poverty (in a practical sense) and poverty mentality.
The movie is about a poor woman who is struggling to make enough to buy food. She lives in a small home and cuts her own firewood. Throughout the film, we see the suffering on her face and in her life. But there is also joy. She works hard and is careful to be patient and fair with others. A man moves into the village; just as poor. He, on the other hand, is full of greed and despair, anger and hopelessness. He goes out of his way to try to swindle others; he wastes the resources around him in his panic.
Practicality and Mentality
As strange as this sentence may seem, some of the “poorest” people I’ve ever met are wealthy.
That is because there are two kinds of poor. The practical kind, which in no way am I trying to dismiss or diminish. It is a harsh and difficult reality faced by most people in the world. But the other kind is a poverty of spirit. It is the kind of fear that makes billionaires exceedingly frugal, always worried they will suddenly not have enough.
You can have a poverty mentality no matter what your annual income. Because poverty mentality is not really about money. It is about control and feeling secure. It is about fear. The woman in this movie we watched is not afraid. She is free in a way many of us might envy.
The Bible talks a lot about the way we measure. It talks about it in terms of forgiveness and tithing. What we measure matters. And one of the vital things about our perspective is which instrument of measure we use.
The reason the woman in this story is full of joy, even in the midst of her suffering, is because the measure she uses for success in life is not solely monetary. The tricky thing about money is there is never really enough of it. No matter how much you have, you want a little more. Money does not inherently satisfy and, therefore, cannot be enough in and of itself. It is how we earn money and the way we use the money we have that determines the value of money.
When money is its own end, it becomes an idol. We worship it. We bow down in fear before it. And it never responds in kind. It never satisfies.
The woman in this story would love to make more money. Her face is worn and dirty. Her body aches and her muscles groan with the effort of her days. Just as the man in the story.
The difference between the two is not which one rises above the practical poverty by finding practical wealth. The difference is that one has realized a strong mentality, a joy in life, and is not a slave to the circumstances she finds herself in.
The example is convicting and humbling to me. What measure do I use for satisfaction and joy? Is my life focused on practical stuff or the mentality of perspective?