I have a short list of people I want to meet when I get to heaven. At the top of this list is the Apostle Paul. His entire life has fascinated me from early youth, including his upbringing, his education, and the dramatic means by which he was converted on the road to Damascus. Now before I start getting letters asking ‘what about Jesus?’ I don’t categorize Jesus as a man, He is after all the Son of God, and we will all see Him face to face on that great and glorious day.
What impresses me most about Paul is not his sharp wit, his knowledge of the Old Testament, or even his high threshold for pain. What impresses me most is Paul’s utter dismissal of the material, and his constant view of this life from a spiritual perspective.
We can choose to see this life through the eyes of flesh, or through spiritual eyes. If we choose to see this world, and this life through eyes of flesh, we will live in perpetual defeat, we will never be satisfied, we will desire and pursue material things, only to be disappointed when we attain them and they do not offer the peace or happiness we thought they would bring.
Then there is the better way, the way of seeing this life through spiritual eyes, and realizing the truly precious and priceless things in life have nothing to do with how much money is in the bank account, or how new a car we drive. When we view the world through spiritual eyes, when we view our existence through the prism of spiritual insight, though we might be poor by the world’s standards, we are rich beyond measure.
Consider the fact that Saul, before he became Paul was well on his way to being a Pharisee. Not only did the Pharisees of the time have authority over the people, they also shared countless perks and the resources of the temple’s treasury. These men were affluent, sort of like a prosperity preacher until a year or so ago, because let’s face it, the biscuit wheels have fallen off the prosperity gravy train. But I digress!
Saul would have been a man of means and a man of considerable authority if he had continued to pursue being a Pharisee. Instead, he became a follower of Jesus, and was constantly beaten, whipped, jailed, mocked, and hunted like an animal. No paisley robes, no ceremonies, no adulation from the masses, but constant and continual hardship, at times being thirsty, at times being hungry, and at times even being left for dead.
Through it all Paul sees his trials, his hardships, and his pain through the prism of spiritual eyes, and so remains undeterred. He rejoices in persecutions, he rejoices in trials, he rejoices in need, and as he said, learned to be abased, and to abound, everywhere in all things, he learned to be both full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
What prompted this writing were eight little words that Paul penned, in 2 Corinthians that should serve to instruct us on how to view our present circumstances, whatever they might be.
2 Corinthians 6:10, “As having nothing, and yet possessing all things!”
It is undeniable that Paul became poor for the love of Christ, but he did not ask that anyone pity him because of this. Paul knew what his reward would be, he remembered the promise of Christ that everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters of father or mother or wife or children or lands, for His name’s sake would receive a hundredfold, and inherit everlasting life.
So what does it mean to live as having nothing, and yet possessing all things? First off, let’s face, it there aren’t many if any people living in American who live as having nothing. Our notion of poverty is very different from the notion the rest of the world shares in reference to being poor. While we define poverty as not being able to afford the third television in the kid’s room, or the third car we’ve had our eye on, most of the world defines poverty as not having food for days on end, as not having a roof over one’s head, or more than one change of clothes.
In order to understand what Paul was saying, we must consider that the world was created for man, and the better part of it is beyond our front door. No mogul in the world, no matter how rich, could buy a sunset or a sunrise, because the truly priceless things were created for everyone, not just for a select few who could afford them.
The five senses that God has given us allow us to enjoy and appreciate all of God’s glorious creation, from seeing a sunrise, to smelling a ripe peach in the heat of summer, to touching a rough piece of marble, to tasting a freshly picked strawberry, to hearing the symphony of God’s creation on a summer’s evening in the birds and the critters that are ever present, yet unseen.
Although we haven’t even gotten to the spiritual aspect of living as having nothing yet possessing all things, consider that the great works of art, the great masterpieces of our time and generations past, are all public domain, easily visible in any museum. The true beauty of the world that God has created is accessible by prince and pauper alike.
A life lived in simple faith, trusting in God, gives us possession of all things. Jesus chose a life of poverty for Himself when He came to the earth. I realize there are dissenting opinions on the topic, but the Bible says Jesus was poor, and He had no place to lay his head, so I tend to believe the words of Jesus over some surgically augmented man with a southern drawl that always seems to have a smile on his lips that never quite makes it to his eyes.
Unlike the preachers of today, Jesus lived what He preached, and when He taught that we ought not concern ourselves with the things of this life, He did not teach this from a position of wealth and opulence, but from a position of poverty, to such an extent that He, Himself was uncertain of tomorrow, yet did not concern Himself with it.
God has freed us from the burden of having to fear for our earthly goods, he has freed us from the burden of having to worry and consume ourselves over what the economy is doing, or how the stock market is performing, because we know that He will always supply our needs according to His riches in glory.
I could not imagine a worst way to live, than being subject to my circumstances, and allowing my circumstances to dictate the level of my peace and joy. This is what many prosperity preachers just refuse to understand; I am not sad, angry, hopeless, or desperate in my poverty, my circumstances do not dictate my emotions or my state of mind. I know that tomorrow is another day, and each day is another opportunity to see the hand of God move in my life.
Could I afford to buy a house? Sure I could, but I would rather use the money to feed the hungry, because I’m quite comfortable with living in an apartment. I have a roof over my head, when it rains I have shelter, I’ve got a place to keep my books, and a couch where I can write, I am blessed!
It is when we begin to compare ourselves to other people that we start seeing ourselves as not blessed, because although we have a home and a car, the neighbor had a bigger home and an extra car for special occasions. It is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks, which makes the children of God unthankful for the many blessings He has bestowed upon them.
We will always find somebody to compare ourselves to, someone that has more than we have, and we equate their possessions with having more joy, and more peace.
So often it seems the possessions posses the possessor rather than the possessor possessing the possessions making men who should be free, slaves of things rather than servants of Christ. This is the danger of focusing on anything other than Jesus.
1 Timothy 6:9, “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.”
Gold corrupts those who desire it, and those who desire to be rich fall into temptations and a snare, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
We must return to the paramount truth that Jesus is a treasure, and Jesus is enough. We receive salvation without cost, a salvation which is priceless in its value and worth, and this makes us rich beyond measure. No amount of money, no amount of homes or cars can compare with that which we have freely received from Christ. For what would it profit a man if he gained the whole world but lost his soul? We all die; it’s the cruel reality of life. We all die, whether rich or poor, handsome or ordinary looking, bald or with a full head of hair, intelligent or illiterate, we all die, we all expire, we all breathe our final breath, and close our eyes for the last time. So what does it profit me if I die rich? What does it profit you if you die in a palace? Dead is still dead!
Consider the wisdom in the words of Jesus, and realize that the only thing of profit, the only thing of value and worth in this present life is the knowledge of He who is able to grant us eternal life.
There is this inane tendency to forget God when everything is going well, this overwhelming pull to trust in things rather than the giver of things, and so the hearts of men grow cold toward God, they become immersed in amassing and hoarding possessions, rather than following after the will of the heavenly Father.
There is no greater gift than that of eternal life, and this is the gift that God joyfully bestows on all who deny themselves, pick up their crosses and follow after Him.
Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
‘But brother, what about the song, you know, let the poor say I am rich? What about that?’
This is a disingenuous question, because if we have any sort of maturity in Christ, we know that the riches of which the Bible speaks are of a spiritual nature rather than a material one. There is no comparison I can come up with that will adequately convey the difference when it comes to the things that God has reserved for His beloved, and the things that the world has to offer.
James 2:5, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
That which we have received by the cross of Christ, is greater than the greatest treasure known to man. Nothing can compare in worth, nothing can compare in grandeur, nothing can compare in majesty. Why can we live as having nothing and yet possessing all things? Because we are Christ’s and as such are the richest people on the face of this earth.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.