poor in spirit

Last week I wrote some about money being a symbol and I want to elaborate on that a bit. From what I have observed so far, people have three basic types of relationship toward material resources:

1. self-protection and provision

2. receiving and abundant

3. investment-oriented

And it should be our hope to journey through all of them, so I’ll explain more about each of these relationships. If we back up in history all the way to the garden, we are reading one of the most important narratives about resources. It is a story of abundance, where this entirely beautiful, lavish and reproductive world was created and then offered to Adam and Eve. It was not only theirs for their own provision, but theirs to receive and enjoy just for the purpose of receiving, and theirs to invest in. It was Adam, not God, who named the animals, and I’ve always felt this as such a powerful symbol of the creative power we have to see and know creation as it should be, the power of our naming and our voice in the world, and also the powerful way that creation was made to naturally respond to us.

And then something was clearly broken when Adam was forced to leave the garden. The ground was cursed, the earth was going to respond differently. It would take pain and serious work to feed himself. He wouldn’t be able to work from the ease of the higher place, but instead he now had to ‘work the ground from which he had been taken’ (Genesis 3:23).

Suddenly people were thrust into a world of living where work, and labor, were all for the purpose of self-protection, surviving and just being able to provide. Yet things weren’t meant to stay that way, as the rest of the ‘big story’ goes on to show, and just like the cosmic story, neither were we meant to exist solely on a self-protective level. The ‘curse’ was reversed by a covenant with mankind, that promised not only his mercy but his restoration.

After all, creation was made to produce, and abundantly, at least in its origins, and because God created it, God’s intentions are still in it. And we have barely even tapped into its potent nuclear, physiological potential. I’m not talking about bombs, but about the DNA of the natural world, and its responsiveness to the super-natural. Jesus had command over the natural elements. He was able to walk on water, calm storms, sprout trees from twigs overnight, command things to shrivel, turn water into wine, etc, and make one sandwich into over a thousand. His voice had massive reproductive and transformative power over nature. And it wasn’t just God’s voice, it was the voice of a man, a man who came as the ‘firstborn among many’, meaning we too have an inheritance in being able to speak over the material world from the super-material, or the super-natural.

So what does this have to do with money? Money is a symbol of material resources, of abundance, of provision, of the means through which to have things or to be without. I think as we begin to let him transform our relationship with the material world and with resources from the inside out, our relationship with money will follow.

the first stage: self-protection

Many of us are still at a stage where the material world is still about the first type of relationship, about surviving and self-provision. And this relationship is mirrored in our attitude toward relationships with people, with the created world and the environment, with material belongings. It is a broken relationship where we are still “working the ground from which we were taken”.

Take for example, our relationship with the environment. On an ideological level, most people in the world truly believe that were are barely at a survival level right now, and that the natural world is at a tipping point where all the resources of the world are completely spoiled and wrecked. It is one of the hottest topics on the planet, and one in which we can’t afford to ignore and must be a part of conversing with it.

Many people I know believe that the world is going to run out of natural resources, of gas, of electricity, of the means to live, of environmental safety, and all these things are causing great anxiety. Out of that anxiety comes a very self-protective way of viewing the world, and lifestyle choices and programs implemented out of a desire to tip the balance and protect things from impending destruction.

Christians, however, are not supposed to live in this kind of anxiety. We are living from another realm, or supposed to be, a realm that has the same power over creation that Jesus accessed. But I am always shocked at how paranoid so many Christians are of impending doom, and how we respond the same way as the rest of the anxious planet, by going into self-preservation ideals rather than releasing the raw reproductive investment potential that Jesus did.

If we choose simplicity or self-protection out of fear that the world is going to run out of resources, we are moving from a broken relationship with the earth, and a mistaken ideology of who we are. On a very fundamental level, most of the environmental movement has some good ideas but is also extremely existentialist in its outlook, and shot through with a daoistic view of the world that is about balance. The creation that God spoke into being is a fantastical world of ever-creative power and abundance, and even though it may appear to be self-destructing, our anxiety is not the Lord’s. He wants to restore far more than just a ‘balance’ but actually release the creative, reproductive potential that at the moment appears so latent.

But knowing this part of Him and acting on it requires that we begin to know who we are first, past our survival and self-protecting relationship with resources. As I wrote in my earlier blog, I used to think that my life was just going to be about barely getting by, and so most of my jobs, my finances and even my resources were all about surviving. I never felt like I had much, and so as a result I never gave much. I didn’t view my resources as investment potential, and resources which had the power to reproduce not only in myself but miraculously in others.

The journey of getting to a relationship with money, and resources, that is investment-oriented, means that we have to address our internal mindset of being “poor in spirit”, of considering ourselves worthless or having nothing.

I define a spirit of poverty as: believing that your current resources limit you from not only new inventions, but from your dream or your calling in life. Our callings are about inhabiting territory outside of ourselves, in people, and in the world. If we barely believe we can survive on our own little plot in the world, how can we transform the rest?

The “spirit of poverty” is a very real and very active demonic stronghold in the world, and it moves freely in places where we feel worthless and ashamed of who we are. It moves freely where we are afraid and where we have decided our lot in life is just to be responsible. It moves freely where there is fear of others, either racial or cultural fear. It moves freely in areas of abuse, where we have been taken from without our decision to give. It moves freely in depression, where all possibilities of inventiveness and hope have been eliminated.

And if we want to be delivered from a spirit of poverty, both spiritually, emotionally and financially, it must mean that we begin to open our arms to a new type of relationship toward material resources–the hope for abundance. That’s the topic I’ll mull on in another blog, but in the meantime, ask yourself if you have a view of resources, whether in your own finances or job, in your lifestyle, or in the environment, that has elements of paranoia, or fearfulness, or conspiracy thinking, or self-protectiveness. This is a good sign that you are going to begin a journey, not just to freedom financially, but to freedom from bondage to a spirit of poverty, to an ever-increasingly fatalistic view of life that is taking hold of the planet.

We should be challenged that when Jesus said, “Consider the lilies” he wasn’t chiding us to trust him with our basic needs. He was asking us to consider how radiant we are, how beautiful, how abundant, how loved. He wasn’t talking about sustainability, but SPLENDOR.

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you…”

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