POVERTY

James Smith, 1864


"Has not God chosen those who are poor of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" James 2:5

Most people dread poverty and yet it is not the worst thing that can happen to us. "A poor man is better than a liar." Honest poverty is far better than wealth gotten by deceit, fraud, or oppression. Riches are often a greater temptation, than destitution. Wealth often draws from God while poverty drives us to him. "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness!" 1 Timothy 6:9-11. Thus wrote the Apostle to professors in his day, and his admonition is as necessary now as ever.

Few can be trusted with wealth, without it injuring them. It exercises such a powerful influence, it puts such energy into our lusts and passions, and it exposes us to such violent temptations; that unless special grace is given us we are sure to be led astray. Many who have wealth, must be stripped of it, if they are to be made holy, useful, or happy; and many who long for it, must be kept without it, if they are to be preserved from Satan and sin. Agur's prayer was as wise as it was devout, "Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Proverbs 30:7-9

The Lord's people have generally been poor. They were chosen to be poor not because they were poor. They were chosen to be the Lord's special people, a people peculiarly his own. They were chosen in Christ, "who is the head of his body the church." They were chosen of sovereign grace, without anything in them to induce the Lord to choose them. They were chosen before the foundation of the world. Election is one of the first acts of God, of which we have any account given us in his most holy word. This act of God lies at the root of our salvation. It is the spring from which proceeds all our graces, and all our usefulness. Election was the sovereign act of a sovereign God. It was the exercise of his unquestionable right for his people's good and his own glory. It was sovereignty taking the side of mercy, and thus securing the salvation of millions of immortal souls who must otherwise have perished.

The Lord chose whom he would, and chose them because he would. He chose them to be holy. He chose them to be saved through sanctification of the Spirit, and belief of the truth.

His choice is necessarily very different to man's. "For his ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts; but as the heavens are higher than the earth so are his ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts than our thoughts." Men would have chosen the rich, the great, the noble, the learned, the amiable, and the wise but God has chosen the poor! This, men would account foolish but hear the Apostle Paul, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him!" 1 Corinthians 1:25-29

How astonishing is this and yet how wise. How humbling to human pride and yet how calculated to secure all the glory to God.

"God has chosen the poor of this world," not all the poor but the generality of his people have been, and are still poor. Not that there is anything spiritual in poverty, or peculiarly pleasing to God in it but grace thrives best in this soil. God appointed his people to be poor, because he saw it would be best for them, and greatly glorify him.

The objects of God's choice men generally despise. They court the rich but they neglect the poor. They seek for the great but they disregard the weak. They make much of the noble but they think little of the foolish things which God has chosen.

There is too much of this carnal partiality among even professors of religion. The man with the gold ring and rich apparel, is still made too much of; and the poor man in vile clothing, too little. But God sees not as man sees, for man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.

Reader, are you poor? Is your situation in life bleak? Do the great and noble of this world despise you? Do not care about it. See to it that your heart is right with God. Make your calling and election sure. Prove your election of God, by your holiness and consecration to God. Let not your heart be troubled about temporal things but seek to have God dwelling in you, and to dwell yourself in God. Seek . . .
to walk with God,
to be conformed to the will of God,
to be employed in the service of God, and
to be used to the glory of God.

The Most High God is the poor man's God.

The Bible is the poor man's book.

The promises are the poor man's portion.

The bosom of Jesus is the poor man's resting place.

Heaven is the poor man's home.

Poverty cannot prevent happiness, because it cannot separate from God, keep us from the mercy seat, or deprive us of our title to everlasting life.

God has a special regard for the godly poor, hence he says, "Thus says the Lord, Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? This is the one I esteem: he who is poor and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word."

In times of calamity, affliction, and sorrow there are special comforts in store for the godly poor, as it is written, "The meek also shall increase their joy in the Lord, and the poor among men shall rejoice in the Holy One of Israel."

Let us not then fear poverty.

Let us not unduly value wealth.

But let us seek first, to possess and promote the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and expect all temporal things that are necessary to be added unto us. We have the word of our beloved Lord, as a solemn pledge that it shall; and he will not break his word, nor alter the thing that is gone out of his mouth.

To be under the blessing of God is to be really rich, for "the blessing of the Lord, it makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it." To be righteous before God is to be truly safe, for "riches do not profit not the day of wrath but righteousness delivers from death." To be poor in spirit, is to possess an unquestionable title to everlasting life; hence the Lord Jesus said, "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven."

Heaven with all its glories, eternity with all its blessings, and God with all his wealth is the portion of the poor, but godly man! "God has chosen the poor of this world, to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him." Rejoice then and be exceeding glad, for "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom!" But if your trials press so sore that you cannot just now rejoice, "Be patient, for the coming of the Lord draws near;" and when he comes "the meek shall inherit the earth, and delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Poverty is only for time; plenty will be your portion to all eternity!