I remember as a child sitting around the Thanksgiving table with my family and all of us taking a turn to say what we were thankful for. The common things mentioned were family, friends, warm house, clothes, and it never failed that someone was thankful for turkey! We always mentioned the things that we had and gave thanks for those things. In my mind I would compare myself with someone who didn’t have the possessions or positions I did, and sincerely thank God that He had chosen to give those things to me.
After working closely with the people in the Rio, an impoverished community that Back2Back serves, my thoughts on giving thanks have changed a bit. It is easy to look at poverty and feel sympathy, pity, and guilt about what we have and what they don’t. However, have we ever thought that poverty could be a thing to give thanks for in and of itself?
Poverty is defined as “the state of one with insufficient resources” (Merriam-Webster). It is the knowledge that you can’t take care of yourself and your family on your own. With poverty come dependence and humility and the deep realization that you need help, that you can’t satisfy your own needs. Many times we look on poverty through our self-sufficient lenses and are disgusted by it. However isn’t humility and dependence on God to satisfy our needs exactly what our Father in Heaven desires of us?
Often, when we have all the material possessions we need the thing we lack is dependence on God. We are able in many ways to provide for our own needs. We don’t really need Him. When we have too much we are tempted to disown the Lord, forget about Him and say “Who is the Lord?” (Proverbs 30:9).
In Matthew 5, Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ‘Blessed’ is a word that means so much more than happiness. It means a spiritual joy and well-being. Oh how much eternal joy a person has whose spirit is dependent on God and humbled before Him!
Recently, I was talking to a Mexican friend who experienced a severe time of financial need before coming to serve with Back2Back. His told me stories of walking four miles to get to school because he couldn’t pay for a bus ticket and about how he and his sisters would go to bed early at night because it helped them forget about the pain in their gnawing stomachs.
“That time was hard,” he said, “But I wouldn’t trade what I learned for anything. During those years I saw the Lord’s provision for me in ways I never could have dreamed.”
He then went on to tell story after story of the miraculous ways his Father in heaven provided him with food, clothing, school supplies, etc. Stories of people calling and inviting him and his sisters to eat the day they ran out of food, others dropping by with bags of groceries right when they weren’t sure what they would have for dinner, stories of finding the materials he needed for school laying on the side of the road. As a result of his poverty, the man’s faith in God is unlike any I have seen.
The Kingdom of God is about the least being the greatest, the last being first, and the weak being strong so that ultimately the Lord is glorified. We can praise God for weakness, humility, and poverty when it causes us to be dependent on Him and when it builds in us a testimony of His faithfulness.
Are there ways in which you can thank God for poverty this Thanksgiving?