November 9, 2006

Poor in Spirit, Rich in Faith

Filed under: Pressing Toward the Mark,Your Words Upon My Heart — Katryna Starks @ 1:51 pm

James 2:5 (New International Version)

Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?

I used to get frustrated with God.  When I worked with the mentally ill, I noticed that a disproportionate amount of them were Christian.  I don’t mean the type of people who, because of their illness, spout religious-sounding non-sequitors, but true believers who remain faithful even when they are medicated and lucid.  I wondered why people who so profoundly believed in God and who followed him so faithfully had to be subjected to such hardships.  Often, their illness prevented them from working – for some, even causing them to lose well-established careers – so one of the consequences was that they were financially poor and often dependent on state assistance.  Some had lost contact with family members who did not understand.  Some gained criminal records because they turned to illegal street drugs when their symptoms began, not understanding that they had treatable illnesses.  For others, the pressures of life caused them to turn to drugs, which left them with damaged brains and mental illness as a result.  Still, they believed in God, so why did he leave them there?     

The other night, I ran across the above scripture in James.  I remember a similar scripture from the beatitudes in which Jesus says that the poor are blessed, but I never understood it until I read it again in James.  I thought that there were people who believed in God, and God in turn abandoned them to poverty and hardship.  Reading James 2:5, I realize that it is the opposite.  People who for some reason find themselves in hardship and poverty are given a special gift of faith – from God.  Their faith is God’s loving remedy for their current situation, and it is often the very thing that helps them make the changes they need to get out of it.  If two people fall into a pit, the one who consistently hopes and believes that he or she will get out is the one who will keep trying to do so, and eventually succeed.  This is why God gives faith to the poor in spirit - so they won’t give up.       

New International Version Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society