The Many Blessings Of Poverty
In part one and part two of this series, I explained how being ‘poor’ is not only a relative term, it is a mindset that we chose that, if allowed to continue long enough, becomes a way of life. In this post, I will attempt to explain how my own experiences have taught me that poverty can bring many blessings. If you have not read parts one and two, please do so now as they are necessary in order to understand this post.
Once again, I return to my experience with my own business (I am assuming you have already read parts one and two). When I first started my business, it was wildly more successful than I had any right to expect. I did not go through the usual years of hard work to build my business the way I should have. What’s more, my business is hobby related: I turned my hobby into a successful business. My accountant told me this is almost never heard of – especially from the first year. And my customers never stopped gushing over my products, which I had made by my own hand. And then there was the money. I would not say I made enough to consider myself ‘rich,’ but it was more than enough that I thought of myself that way. I was making more in a month than I had ever made in six month in my entire life.
The problem was, I was not prepared to handle this success. I still had a ‘working poor’ mentality, so I did not watch what I spent. I spent extravagantly on the business, on myself – even on my employees. And when reality caught up with me, I found myself deep in debt and struggling to make it in a business that had finally regained its historically competitive edge. In short, the only way out for me was to sell the business – and so I did. And for the next two years, I humbled myself as best I could and sought my answers from the Lord, who showed me what He has to say about business in His word.
If you will read Scripture, you will find it has a great deal to teach us about owning and operating our own business. First, as with all things the Lord wants from us, we have to understand that a business is not about us. It is about serving others. In this case, we have to serve our customers by selling them a product or service they need or want. Next, we have to understand that we cannot cheat people or cut corners. We need to offer a quality product at a fair price. In short, we need to offer value. And we need to understand that a healthy business must be built slowly and deliberately. Remembering that the goal is not to produce great wealth but to serve others will help us do this. And part of building a business in a deliberate fashion is recognizing that our business is a thing that must be nurtured. In business terms, this means saving for the lean times while looking for newer and better ways to serve our customers. When we do all of these things – all of which are found in Scripture — we will find that we have built a solid foundation under our business, so when the storms of the business cycle approach, ours will stand up to the gale.
However, if we do all these things, we will discover something else. We no longer have that old ‘poverty’ mentality. We will have changed into a wealth creator rather than a consumer. Sadly, in our culture, this will mean public scorn. Where the businessman was once admired and respected in this country, and the goal of owning one’s own business was the life aspiration of many Americans, today, the business owner is viewed as an evil, greedy person who is at the root of most our nation’s ills. But this is only because the poor do not learn the lessons their poverty is meant to teach them. They have failed the test by not recognizing and taking advantage of the blessings that come from poverty.
I read a lot of history, especially history dealing with the period of WW II. There is a reoccurring comment in the memoirs of the WW II veterans. Many of them credit their childhoods during the Great Depression for preparing them to go through the rigors of a global struggle. If you read the stories of the men who fought that war enough, you will notice they always tell you they were poor – but they didn’t know it. Their families provided the best they could, and part of that was teaching them to share with others – no matter how little they may have had. These veterans will also recount how the Depression era made the value friends and form close relationships. They will recount for you – if you will let them – how that ability to bond and care for others helped them through the war years. And afterward, they will tell you that both the Depression childhood and WW II youth helped them to become successful in the 50’s and 60’s.
Having come from little, and having had to work hard just to survive, these men and women learned the value of things. They did not waste as much as we do now. They did not expect hand-outs, so they saw programs that could help them as blessings. The GI bill will come up often in these stories, and nearly everyone who mentions it will tell you that they were grateful. It put them through college when they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford to go. And they put that blessing to good use. The children of the depression were the soldiers of WW II, and then they became the men and women who built the most successful and prosperous nation this world has even known. Sadly, however, they also raised the most spoiled and laziest generation this world has even known. The Baby-boomers developed a sense of entitlement that has lead to the mistaken notion that a person making $40,000 or more in government assistance and benefits every year is ‘poor.’ The Baby-boomers have no idea what poverty is, but their parents do.
Poverty is a test of character. What you learn from it, and what you do with those lessons speaks a great deal about a person. If you chose to improve your lot in life, you work hard, save and invest and take a long-term approach to life, then poverty can be a great blessing. On the other hand, if you wallow in self pity and envy and spend your time complaining about how life isn’t fair and you’ve been cheated, then poverty is still a blessing. A person with that attitude – like I once had – is better off poor than wealthy — at least in the spiritual sense, and your spirit is what really matters. If you love money more than God, and you suddenly come into money, you will ruin yourself. I know, I have done it, and I have seen others around me do it, too. Look to people such as Lindsey Lowhan and Miley Sirus, or even Justin Beber. They are young, wealth and famous – and every one of them live a train wreck of a life. This is because they are also spoiled and have no appreciation for what they have. You can also look to the many people who have gained great wealth and fame and then lost it all. How did they lose millions? They had no appreciation for their wealth, so they squandered it. And when you live that way, you are in grave peril of losing your soul, as well.
So, in the end, poverty – at least as we think of it in this country — is not about what you have, it is about how much of what others have that you decide you want for yourself. Poverty is a mindset born of envy and perpetuated by sloth. In truth, there is very little real poverty in America. But even if there were; even if many of us truly did not have enough to eat every day and no clothing (my father grew up that way and it made him the hardest working man I have ever known), poverty can still be a blessing. If you turn to God and depend on Him to help you and live according to His commandments, then you will be saved and rewarded. It just might not be in this lifetime. On the other hand, if you turn to government to provide or crime, if you allow your envy of what others have to consume and control you, then you will lose both your soul and your stuff. But through all of this, one thing remains: it is not the ‘rich’ man who is to blame for need in this world; it is greed and the lust to control others. Study history and you’ll find I’m right about this, too.