Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gospel of Poverty

Sometimes it would cross my mind - Galit ba si Jesus sa mayayaman? (Is Jesus angry at wealthy people?) or at another point, now that I live quite comfortably, am I doomed?

But then again, he never really says anything to that effect, unlike the way he calls out Pharisees and Scribes as hypocrites. In direct reference to wealth, "It is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass the eye of the needle." He didn't say impossible. He didn't say that rich men cannot enter the Kingdom of God. He just says that is very difficult.

When I read the Gospels, I see a very real and deep concern and compassion for the poor, the powerless. They live at the fringes of society, at the fringes of the consciousness of those who are comfortable. We get reminded of them in the news, maybe in cinema and TV, too. My nephew, who grew up in New Zealand, was surprised at the 'poverty' he saw on the streets, so real and so.. Near and proximate. That is something he never saw in Auckland.

But Jesus never forgets the poor and underprivileged. Because hunger and thirst, or material poverty, is the surest was to 'break a man's spirit'. When one's circumstances cannot be changed, when no amount of hard work can make one eat a little better the next day, when hope is disappearing that one will have 'better life someday', that is the most depressing state for a human being. At that moment, his will to live, his 'spirit' is crushed. How could one go on living?

Jesus sees that brokenness, and he is so moved by it. And in response, He declares "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." There is hope. The Kingdom of Heaven, not of Earth, is already theirs. It is not so dire after all. One may be hungry at the present time, but just keep on persevering, justice will be served eventually.

That brokenness is not exclusive to those who are materially poor. We have all experienced being broken in spirit at one time or another. A career failure, a heartache, a death of a loved one. These circumstances just crush us. And we feel the hopelessness. In that brokenness, Jesus also speaks to us. We, who may be comfortable "and filled", are also included in that 'blessing'. We realize that all our material wealth does nothing to lift our spirits. Only when put our Hope in Him and his promise of the Kingdom of Heaven will we ever find solace.

However, we rarely experience that brokenness. We delude ourselves into thinking that with enough money, with enough wealth, we can be comfortable and never be 'broken in spirit.' That is the reason why it becomes so much harder for the rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. We put our hope in the things of this world, not in Him.

The challenge then is to realize that at a certain level, we are 'broken in spirit'. That is the challenge that can be met only by humbling ourselves willfully, that despite the comforts of life we can enjoy, we are still 'poor in spirit', we are nothing. Those who are materially in poverty are way ahead of us because their brokenness is with them everyday. So they turn to Him everyday, not like us. We forget often.

The difficulties I face at work has led me to feel that brokenness. I am broken in spirit. I acknowledge that I failed in so many respects. I have been humbled and crushed. I say this now, acknowledging my weakness, my poverty in spirit.

But in this broken state of spirit, I have turned to Jesus, everyday. I finally saw how prayer is helping me turn my spirit around. I have started to pray a bit more, acknowledging to Him that I cannot do this on my own. That I need Him to show me how to re-build this company.

Slowly, surely, He has started to! Dahan-dahan may nangyayari. Dahan-dahan nagkakaroon ng liwanag. Napaparating niya sa akin ang mga dapat kong asikasuhin. Binibigyan niya ako ng mga pagkakataon, opportunities that I can only describe as 'miraculous' to start to turn things around. Hindi lang mabilisan. Sa tamang panahon.

That is my learning for this Christmas - not be distracted by the material wealth, the pleasures that I will enjoy this season. I need to be reminded of the poverty in spirit that I share with those who are truly less fortunate than me. I wish to always acknowledge that brokenness because only then will I realize that there is really hope in Jesus, Jesus who's birthday the world will be celebrating this Friday.

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