If you want to be poor, then go ahead and be poor.
If your first thought when you read the title of this post was, “What?!?!? Of course Jesus was poor, everyone knows that!“, then you need to read, ‘But Didn’t Jesus Live In Poverty?‘. In that post we debunked all the so-called ‘proof’ that Jesus was poor, and now I want to show the open-minded readers among you, that Paul was not poor either. It seems strange to me how keen many Christians are to point out verses that apparently show how poor people like Jesus & Paul were, as evidence that we should be poor too (or at the very most just financially average). God has given us freewill, so if you want to be poor, then go ahead and be poor. Go live on the breadline – whatever it is that makes you happy. But personally I don’t see the attraction, I would much rather look at how God blessed people in the Bible. I don’t get why people want to ignore the multitude of verses where God promises to bless us spiritually, physically, financially, etc. and instead search out the few verses which possibly indicate poverty is good.
The Jews understand the difference between blessing & curse.
Look, if you think poverty is good you’re deluded. Go read through Deuteronomy 28 and you will see that prosperity is under The Blessing and poverty is under the curse – it really isn’t complicated. Take a look at Psalm 115:12-15, “The Lord hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron. He will bless them that fear the Lord, both small and great. The Lord shall increase you more and more, you and your children. Ye are blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth”. In the Tehillim (Jewish commentary on the Psalms) the note on Psalm 115:14 says, “These words provide a most accurate description of the true nature of blessing. Blessing means increase and abundance, whereas the closest definition of curse, is decrease and loss“. The Jews understand the difference between blessing & curse and they don’t get why Christians have such a problem understanding which is which.
You can see Paul’s financial shrewdness in what he says next.
Anyway, let’s look at the evidence that Paul had more money than what has traditionally been taught. The first piece of evidence, is Paul’s numerous missionary journeys, as recorded in the book of Acts. Do you think they let people travel for free in those days? Of course not! All of Paul’s travels would have cost a great deal of money and we don’t read anything about Paul doing fund raising events in the local synagogues, “If you don’t give I can’t go to Corinth……“. The next piece of evidence that I will present is found in the book of Philemon. In this short letter, Paul writes to Philemon concerning Onesimus, and says in verses 18-19, “If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it“. Paul would not have offered to repay Philemon for any expenses caused by Onesimus if he had not had the money to do so – that would have been dishonest. Philemon knew that Paul had the capital to back up what he said. Although you can see Paul’s financial shrewdness in what he says next, “I won’t mention how much you owe me! The fact is, you even owe me your very soul!” (verse 19, The Living Bible).
Paul did go through times of lack – but he didn’t stay there!
In Acts 24, Paul has become a prisoner in Caesarea, under the Governor Felix. Acts 24:26 in The Message, records how Felix kept sending for Paul throughout the next two years that he continued as governor. It also reveals Felix’s motive in repeatedly sending for Paul, “At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently“. Felix knew that Paul had the money to offer him a substantial bribe – Paul certainly wasn’t poor. It is true that there do appear to have been times when cash flow was an issue for Paul. In Philippians 4 he talks of, at times being in need, and at other times having plenty. But then as he draws his letter to a close, he says in verse 18, “Now I have everything I want—in fact I am rich. Yes, I am quite content, thanks to your gifts received through Epaphroditus. Your generosity is like a lovely fragrance, a sacrifice that pleases the very heart of God” (J.B. Phillips version). Yes, Paul did go through times of lack – but he didn’t stay there! Paul knew the truth of what he wrote in the next verse of his letter to the Philippians because he had personally experienced it: “My God will liberally supply (fill to the full) your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, Amplified Bible, Classic Edition).
Paul needed to live out the New Testament as he wrote it.
Traditional Christianity likes to focus on the sufferings that Paul went through, but we need to remember that Paul did not have the benefit of the New Testament. Paul needed to live out the New Testament as he wrote it and as God revealed to him just what was available both to him and to all believers. In 2 Timothy 3:10-11 Paul says, “Timothy, you know what I teach and how I live. You know what I want to do and what I believe. You have seen how patient and loving I am, and how in the past I put up with trouble and suffering in the cities of Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra” (Contemporary English Version). The part that the church has not traditionally paid much attention to, is Paul’s very next words: “Yet the Lord rescued me from all those terrible troubles“.
Avoid that sort of church like the plague.
As I said at the beginning of this post, if you insist on being poor, then that is your cBut if this is what you want, I would advise against reading too much of the Bible, as there is far more evidence that God wants us to be rich (in order to bless others) than there is to indicate anything to the contrary. In fact, if living under the effects of the curse is an attractive lifestyle to you, I would advise that you avoid reading the Bible yourself altogether. Instead, join a church where the people are poor and often sick, and where they preach sermons all about good works and stay well away from anything that even remotely mentions anything outside of the new birth. For the rest of you – avoid that sort of church like the plague (unless God specifically sends you there with a mission to change it). Read the Bible, believe what God has promised, do what He says to do, and expect to receive everything He has for you. He is, after all, a loving Father.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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