Saturday, December 8, 2007

Did God Curse You With Poverty?

Introduction
Each time I wrote that Prosperity Gospel is not a message that Jesus gave to the church people countered back by telling me that poverty is a curse. A curse is an imprecation that transcends three generations. Poverty can only become a curse if it goes beyond the third generation of a family. Poverty by itself is not a curse. The fact that someone is not preaching the Prosperity Gospel does not mean they are poor. Or it does not mean that because you preach on prosperity you are rich. Notwithstanding, is poverty really a curse? In this sermon I will define poverty, show its causes, advantages and disadvantages, responsibilities of the society towards the poor and how to eradicate poverty. My hope is that at the end of this message our approach towards poverty will change. I am merely going to do an extensive study on the word within the Bible.
Being a Christian does not guarantee automatic riches. That is the lacuna in the Prosperity Gospel. Gideon though a man of valor was living in poverty (Jdg 6:15). Poverty and riches are both states from God’s sovereign making (I Sam 2:7; Prov 22:2). David though before he became king in Israel was greatly esteemed by God he was a poor man (2 Sam 18: 23). Perhaps we may argue that he did not die poor but would that mean that during his preregal time he was under a curse since poverty is a curse? Can anyone show a scripture that says that poverty is a curse? The disciples of Jesus and subsequent followers were not rich. It is an undesirable condition but it is not a curse. Rather those who refuse to give to the poor are those who carry the curse (Prov 28:27).

Definition
The word “poverty” is used 15 times in the King James Version.[1] In the Old Testament it is used with four different root words. The word as used in Gen 45:11 could mean to be disposed out of an inheritance since it has the same root with heir (Gen 15:3) and inherit (Gen 15:7). As used in Prov 11:24 it could also mean to be poor, lack but in a passive mood. Prov 11:24 gives it a more active condition and uses it as a noun synonymous to penury, want, paucity pauperism, impecuniousness, beggary and scarcity. Further into Proverbs 28: 32, it is used as a condition of hardship. In the New Testament it is used as a preposition as in 2 Cor 8:2 but more like the definition in Prov 11:24. The state of poverty could be relative (Ex 22:25). That is; a rich person in one country could be a poor one in another. A rich person in one family could be a poor person in another. However there are some who pretend to be poor but are not while there are others who make themselves rich but are poor (Prov 13:7). By the way, what really causes poverty?

Causes
There are many things that cause poverty in addition to manmade (wars, terrorism, accidents etc) and natural disasters (floods, earthquakes, famine, epidemics), the Bible gives six causes that are self inflicted. The first is reckless spending (Prov 10: 4; 21:17; 23:21). They use the money on drunkenness, gluttony, drugs and gambling. The second is living a vain life (Prov 28:19). Some people are witches for shopping that they are allergic if they don’t buy. They want to live like the joneses. These are the types that go to a night club and buy drinks to everyone to show that they are rich. They are indebted even to the underwear they have. Are you one of them? Another reason is selfishness (Prov 11:24). It is a paradox to hear that we become richer by being generous. The philosophy of the world is stinginess: amass and deprive the rest as much as you can but with God it is the opposite. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Kids nowadays need to know that stubbornness is a cause for poverty (Prov 13:18). One easy way to win a ticket to the party of the poor is to be lazy (Prov 20:13). Sleep all night, sit in front of the TV all day and if you still have free minutes finish them in the restroom on the phone. If you travel from one country to another though you have no source of income you will be poor (Prov 6:11; 24:34). Then step out and blame your parents and the other color for your demise. Finally, hyperopia would make you poor (Prov 28:22). This verse reminds me of Elichi Amadi’s Madume in The Concubine. He became blind as a result of his “big eye or langa” (hyperopia) when in his attempt to harvest a disputed bunch of plantains a cobra spat into his eyes that resulted to blindness from which he was rendered useless and house ridden. In his condition he understood that poverty may have some very unpalatable conditions.

Disadvantages:
Poverty is not a very nice room to sleep in for long. It is good to spend a night or two there but not too long. It makes people deride you; they despise you (2 Kgs 25:12). If you are poor your neighbor will hate you and you will lack friends (Prov 14:20). Rich people will rule over you (Prov 22:7). Everybody wants to boss over you. Yet it still has some good conditions too though. Aren’t you curious to know?

Advantages:
When in poverty you understand the needs of others (2 Cor 8:9). You trust more in God as your refuge (Ps 14:6; 72:12). Poverty forces you to have manners (Prov 18:23). A poor man in righteousness is better than a rich man in sin (Prov 28:6). Poverty gives better surviving skills (Eccl 9:15-16).

Solutions:
People have to know that poverty can never be eradicated in so far as we have man-made and natural disasters. Nonetheless there are some guidelines on how to treat the poor (Ex 23: 3, 6). Giving should be proportionate to our wealth; the rich would not give more and the poor less. The haves should always think of their poor neighbors. Any property sold in poverty is redeemable (Lev 25:25). Poverty can only be reduced when those who have share with those who do not have. It is not for everyone to try to be rich; it shall never happen. The poor shall never disappear off the earth (Deut 15:11; Mt 26:11; Mk 14:7; Jn 12:8). During feast days gifts should be given to the poor to make them happy too rather than an exchange of gifts among the rich and friends (Est 9:22). The poor should then rejoice if they have salvation (Ps 69:29) because they have missed part of the fullness of life on earth..
It is the responsibility of the society to defend the poor. (Ps 82:3-4). If you treat the poor badly you are reproaching God his Maker (Prov 14:31; 17:5). If you despise the poor you would be despised too (Prov 21:13). Treating poor people badly invites bad omens (Amos 2:6). Good Christianity requires that widows, orphans, strangers and poor should be treated with compassion (Zech 7:10). When you organize a feast, the Bible recommends you call the poor and infirmed (Lk 14:13). That is where and when they have the opportunity to enjoy what you have been enjoying. On the contrary we call only the stars and those we esteem of a higher social class. So why do dignitaries sit in front pews of our churches? Some people justify it by saying: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour” (Rom 13:7). Not at all! The seating chart in church has clearly been drafted by God in James. Social stratification is a sin before God (Jas 2:2-6). Therefore, people should not be given seats according to their social status full stop.
However, if push comes to shove that you and poverty are bedfellows; remember it is better to be poor but with integrity than be rich with bad manners (Prov 19:1; 28:6). As for me I will repeat Solomon’s prayer: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain” (Prov 30: 8-9).

Until then, “for what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mk 8:36)?

Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
[1] http://cf.blueletterbible.org/search/translationResults.cfm?Criteria=poverty&Version=KJV

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