Doctrine Article
Expanded Internet Edition - August 1, 1999 

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Is Being Poor a Curse from God?

by Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1999

Read the accompanying Newsletter for August 1999

Let me start this article with a true and non-contradictory statement. Once you (or anyone) comprehends the statement then the matter of "riches" verses "poverty" can be understood in the Holy Scriptures. The statement is this: "It is absolutely a curse for any Christian to be anything but rich, even if the Christian is the poorest of persons on earth." In another way of putting it: "It is NOT a curse for a Christian to be poor, but it is a curse for a Christian not to be rich." These statements may sound contradictory, but they are not. Let me explain.

First, look at the point that it is a curse for a Christian not to be rich. Most of you will quickly agree with me that this is a fact. Recall that Christ Jesus when he was teaching on earth spoke of the message about God and His rule (that he called "the Kingdom of heaven") and He likened it to "treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field" (Matthew 13:44). So, Christ informs us with this parable that having a knowledge of God and the principles of His divine rule and kingdom are equal to a great deal of treasure that is worth more than the land on which it is found. Christ made a further illustration. "The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it" (Matthew 13:45,46). Here again, that one pearl was worth more than even the merchant’s business from which he derived a good living. These two illustrations were given by Christ to show that each of us should consider our knowledge of the Gospel (especially the final teaching called "the Mystery" that so few people even know is different from the previous teachings of God) as being a great treasure hidden in a field (that all other people know nothing about) or it is like possessing a pearl of great price (that all other people know nothing about). In other words, other people may even think you are not rich, but you have hidden treasures they know nothing about. So, you may be very poor in a material way, but if you know the Gospel, you are very rich.

The apostle Paul describes the people whom God calls to the truth. "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty [with riches and power], not many noble [of the aristocracy] are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world [us common folk] to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world [those without much money or power] to confound the things that are mighty [rich and powerful]; and base things of the world [those people in lowly circumstances], and things that are despised [those people often held in disdain and contempt], hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not [are not reckoned as needful], to bring to nought [bring to nothing] the things that are [that people that some consider essential]: that no flesh should glory in his presence" (I Corinthians 1:26-29).

However, God has called you and me [all Christians] to share in great riches, the riches of knowing the teachings of God and just who we are in the plan of God. We are told in "the Mystery" that each of us is to sit (and we are legally sitting there in Christ right now) in the Holy of Holies in heaven at the right hand of God (Ephesians 2:6). So, it is not contradictory to say that we may be poor (or of middle class existence on earth), but we are also very rich by sitting on the very throne of Christ Jesus that governs and controls the totality of this universe. This means we can be poor (which is not a curse) and we can be extremely rich (which is also not a curse) at the same time. One factor in this evaluation is material thinking, and the other is spiritual. Note what Paul taught under inspiration from God. He said those Christians of Macedonia (northern Greece) were in "deep poverty," yet they took up a collection for Paul which he called "the riches of their liberality" (II Corinthians 8:2). Paul even compared their poverty [which was not a curse] with the poverty that Christ also experienced on earth. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich [while he was in heaven with the Father, Christ was extremely rich and had all the riches of the universe at his beck and call], yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich"(II Corinthians 8:9).

Indeed, some people may even consider that the Christian is very poor (and this may be true), but the apostle Paul said that the knowledge of the Gospel and our participation in it makes the riches of this world pale into insignificance compared to our position in the eyes of God. Paul was formerly on the road to being a great Rabbi in the Jewish community, one having money and prestige, but he said: "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things [material things, including riches and prestige] but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom [for Christ] I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" (Philippians 2:7,8). Christ Jesus did the same thing. Earlier on Paul said: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery [taking something without ownership] to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation [Christ became lowly and poor], and took upon him the form of a servant [a mere slave without the slightest personal possessions], and was made in the likeness of man. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient [to this lowly position] unto death" (Philippians 2:5-8).

As a matter of example, there is none better for our Christian experience than that of the apostle Paul himself. Here is what he said of himself after about thirty years of being a Christian (and a ministerial leader at that). He said: "I have learned, in whatever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased [and have little money to live on], and I know how to abound [and have more than enough money to live on]: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full [and have plenty of substance at any given time] and to be hungry [with nothing to live on], both to abound [with plenty of money] and to suffer need [to be in poverty]. I can do all things [whether rich or poor] through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:11-13).

The fact is, it is NOT a matter of a curse either to be poor or to be rich in a physical way. It all depends on what God wants us to have at any given time in our lives. Our various phases of life that God allows us to enjoy or to endure are because of His blessing to all of us who know "the Mystery." Note a teaching of God: "The Lord killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and he bringeth up. The Lord MAKETH POOR and MAKETH RICH: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory" (I Samuel 2:6-8). Remember, it is God who determines by His will what will be our lot (and we all have been chosen by lot for particular patterns of living on this earth – see my book "The Essentials of Christian Doctrine" for evidence of our divine allotments assigned to us all by God Himself). One thing to remember, you may be poor (and God may want it that way for the time being) but you are individually extremely rich, since you are now on the throne of God in Christ.

Ernest L. Martin

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