“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”- Matthew 5:3
The more we work with the homeless and the poor, the more we realize that being poor is not synonymous with being needy. I think the verse above sums up what I mean by needy perfectly; it is to be poor in spirit. Many of the poor are not necessarily poor in spirit: they are just poor in resources. Christian Ministry is not about ensuring that the poor have resources to become wealthy; it is about discovering the path of true happiness.
It is obvious that we live in a materialistic world. There might be cultures that are less materialistic than others, but eventually the internet will convince them of the vast array of material possessions they need to have before they die. People want or desire to accumulate wealth for one reason. They think that wealth can give them more control of the outcome of their personal happiness. It is really about control. We love to be in control and consequently we love the thing that gives us control.
The love of money has become the goal of society. The rich and middle class send their children to expensive private schools and colleges to obtain successful careers enabling them to become materially wealthy. The poor try to use their limited resources to acquire material possessions but this only drives them to debt and greater poverty. Some of the poor use the negative resources available to them such as violence and criminality to achieve this aim. This is not to say that the rich are not criminals. They just have more resources to exhaust before reaching this point, unlike the poor.
The children and teens living in the streets are no different from the teenagers from the middle class society. They want money to buy the latest iPhone. They want to have tablets and dress in the latest styles. They might be poor but they want control. They want to have the control to determine their happiness and they believe that money and material possessions give them this control. As long as they desire this control over their happiness, they will never be poor in spirit. They will just be poor in resources. Giving them resources at this point is not the same as pointing the way to happiness. It is just helping them to become miserable rich teenagers.
For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?-Matthew 16:26
The point where the poor become poor in spirit or needy is when they decide to pursue different goals than the rest of society. This is where the gospel comes in. The gospel gives us two options in regards of the pursuit of money.
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”-Matthew 6:24
Mammon is our way of controlling our perceived happiness and the gospel says that we have to give up this pursuit and see the true path to Happiness. We tell teenagers who are in prison or dealing drugs in the streets to give up their source of income and settle for the evangelical happiness. For most of them, this means embracing a life of poverty without any resources for materialistic living. In this society, the kind of jobs available to them will be low paying jobs. They can educate themselves but most of them won’t have the time or money to do this. They will most likely never own a house or a car. They will struggle to pay rent every month. They will be truly needy as they will have to give up the pursuit of wealth as their goal. Before they can make this bold step towards becoming poor in spirit they need to be sure that material wealth does not contribute to their happiness. They have to see that those who preach the gospel are practicing what they preach. This is not just us, but everyone who preaches the gospel. We need to learn to be needy as well. We need to make sure that we don’t accumulate wealth to gain control of something is beyond our control. We need to realize that only those who give up their control to seek happiness will find it in the One who possesses it.