I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich! (Rev. 2:9)
Rich Mullins, the singer-songwriter who died at forty-one in a car accident, was perhaps best known for writing the popular worship chorus “Awesome God.” Successful by any standard of the music industry, Rich spent most of his shortened life trying to live a simple faith and identify with the poor. Following in the pattern of Jesus, as taught by St. Francis, he was known for his work teaching music to Navajo children. Though wildly successful, he lived on a teacher’s salary and gave all his royalties to charities.
Being poor might be considered the most un-American status. Our economic system is fueled by the hopes of prosperity and success, and we idolize the wealthy as if they are intriguing personalities in themselves. The Bible, on the other hand, considers the poor to be the select friends of God. Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount tells us that in his new reign, the poor are uniquely blessed, and the church is to be a place where the poor are always among us.
When Christ comes to the church, he is not looking for any ostentatious signs of prosperity and largess. God judges success by a very different measure than by spreadsheets and bank deposits. Christ, who sees everything from beginning to end, knows where our afflictions and poverty eventually lead—to his riches in glory.
Seek the poor and value them as Christ does.
Rich Eckley is professor emeritus of theology at Houghton College (NY). He is an ordained Wesleyan minister and enjoys—with his wife, Lynn—entertaining four active grandchildren.
© 2022 Wesleyan Publishing House. Reprinted from Light from the Word. Used by permission. Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®.