The rich and the poor have this in common, The Lord is the maker of them all. Proverbs 22:2
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich. Proverbs 28:6
Defining “Poor” from Merriam-Webster:
- lacking material possessions
- less than adequate
- inferior in quality or value
- lacking a normal or adequate supply of something specified
From “Cheers,” Season 1, Episode 20, titled “Something Single, Something Blue.”
This episode saw Diane Chambers’ wealthy mother facing the prospect of poverty due to a clause in her dead husband’s will, if Diane isn’t married by the following day. Mrs. Chambers was played by the great Glynis Johns, who many might recall as the mother in Mary Poppins with Julie Andrews.
While Cheers is a comedy series, this is a poignant exchange toward the end of the episode. Glynis played it completely straight, tears in her eyes. This came at about the 20:30 mark:
“I’m really quite afraid. I’m afraid of being poor. I was poor before I met your father, and it took me years to really forget how being poor felt.”
I, too, have been poor. While in grad school and for a while after I lived in a roach infested apartment in downtown Detroit. I had three years of fighting cockroaches and no hot water in the bathroom, all in all. I had a ’68 Rambler station wagon that lived much longer than it should have. I remember it always being a crapshoot if anything on it worked, from the windshield wipers to, oh, just about any accessory on the dash. I remember wondering what it might be like to someday have a car where I could be sure everything on it worked!
God blessed me immeasurably in subsequent years. A wife, two daughters, and some very good jobs that came with company cars. Everything worked on them, including bells and whistles not even thought of in the ‘80’s!
I lost almost all possessions in the financial ruin of 2008-9, but God has restored my fortunes since then. It’s been a tough road.
So, when I watched this scene over my lunch hour today, my eyes teared up along with Glynis Johns’. I’ve been poor. Twice. And that’s just talking about money and possessions.
Within the last five years I’ve learned how poor I am in God’s Word. As any good Lutheran, I know the Gospel and directly related verses, but I’ve also learned a lot about the Bible that I’ve been embarrassingly oblivious to. If you search my blog, especially under “Science & History and the Bible,” you’ll see many entries on how the Bible truly does intersect the world in history and today in ways I never before realized.
The more I know, the more I realize I don’t know, the more I mourn not having known in my younger years!
I find that I simply can’t penetrate certain things adequately, because I don’t know Hebrew or Greek, the original languages of the Old and New Testaments, respectively. English is a very poor language, not nearly as nuanced as those ancient tongues.
I’m often dependent on trying to find a reliable source for translation, and those are not always easy to come by!
I often, once knowing what Scripture literally says, find myself poor at trying to execute what I think I’m hearing. For example –
I forgive people for wrongs done. I even pray for them. But without their change in behavior I feel the only way to protect myself is to cut myself off from them. Do I not love enough like Jesus, or would continuing to engage with them be like “casting pearls before swine?”
Even the disciples were told to shake off the dust of their feet at towns that refused their message. Of course, they were there proclaiming the Gospel. Me? I’m just trying to practice some decent behavior with the expectation of something approaching reciprocity.
I would like to bring more people to the knowledge of the truth of God’s mercy and love, but I find myself confounded as to how to do that more than I am.
Mercy. GOD’s mercy is the only solution. Look at my article from last Saturday, “Sweet Release.” Every 7 years, the Children of Israel were commanded by God to just let it all go.
All debts were cancelled.
No work was to be done for an entire year. It wouldn’t be necessary, because God would so bless their farms that they’d have plenty to get them through. The land would lie completely fallow and rest.
And I thought some European countries had generous vacation schedules!
Still, with such a rich proposal, the Israelites blew God off. He let it go for SEVENTY, SEVEN-YEAR CYCLES, giving them fair warnings and even minor disasters. God finally called it enough, and that was the reason the duration of their Babylonian Captivity was 70 years!
Maybe they remembered being poor at some point. Maybe they couldn’t bring themselves to trust God, because they were poor in faith in addition to being poor in money and possessions.
Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
Those seven-year cycles, those Shemitahs, were something God only brought to the Israelites. I know I’m only speaking from the cheap seats here. I wasn’t there. But I can’t help thinking that I’d take that. A one year vacation of doing nothing after six years’ good, hard work sounds great to me. That along with a guarantee of never being poor would be fine.
Being poor, whether in physical assets or knowledge or moral makeup, is never fun. As long as we’re on this earth there will be poorness. Satan will see to it. Jesus even warned us of that;
For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. Matthew 26:11
But we can counter that with staying in God’s Word; all of it, Old and New Testaments. We can be charitable. We can fellowship with other Christians in order to help other remain focused on how Jesus expects us to live –
*Regardless of how much stuff we have.