Downward Ascent 1: Blessed Poverty
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matt. 5:3)
Poverty can incline us to riches beyond ourselves. When directing us to God as our wealth, poverty achieves holy ends; it renders us blessed citizens of a whole new world.
In contrast to Luke, who begins his version of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with ‘blessed are the poor’ (LK 6:20), Matthew expands that phrase to ‘poor in spirit.’ I am grateful; it challenges a privileged white dude like me to consider poverty beyond socio-economic woes. ‘Poor in spirit’ can point to moral destitution: the homelessness that no amount of money can hide or cure.
‘Poverty of spirit’ means that when we look inside of us we recognize sin’s poverty; it also applies to looking around us for answers and coming up empty.
As a young man, I tried to secure love through male lovers. One night I met someone who followed me home from a bar; we lost each other in traffic. As I waited on my street corner, now desperate for this strange new flesh, I instantly realized my poverty. To quote James Joyce, ‘I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity’—one made foolish by seeking cover in a collapsed tent.
A morally poor man seeking riches from other poor men: no wonder persons with same-sex attraction are deep, broken ground for the seed of Jesus!
Perhaps that helps you imagine the poverty I experienced last June when Exodus died, the largest network in the world that unified ministries providing the riches of Jesus for the homosexually poor. One week later, the Federal Supreme Court advocated for ‘gay marriage’ by cancelling out Prop. 8 (CA citizens’ amendment for marriage) and DOMA (federal law protecting marriage). Moral destitution from the top down! That poverty impacts us all, and tempts persons with SSA and their loved ones to believe that little if any protection exists for those seeking the narrow way.
Today the real poverty of homosexuality masks itself as a kind of wealth—a boast, a right, a celebration of new civil liberties. The morally homeless have found a home with secular powerbrokers of all types: political, academic, in popular arts. But no amount of human advocacy can remove our shameful nakedness.
This Lent, I urge you to go with me to the source of our poverty: the sin and disorder that impacts us all, beginning with our first family. Lent insists that we go back to the secrets and lies between Adam and Eve. In regards to the drive for ‘gay’ justice, we must be clear that its virulence mutated from heterosexual idolatry.
Mistrust of the opposite gender, misogyny, misandry, contraception, fornication, adultery, divorce, endemic porn addiction, and sacrificing our kids in the fire of lust and abortion provide the toxic ground on which ‘homosexuals’ seek justice. Guilty of normal perversions, we are too cynical and preoccupied to counter ‘gay’ power with any moral authority.
Only One can make us rich in love, clear in truth. But He insists that we admit the sinful part we have played in the moral eclipse at hand. Lent grants us 40 days to reflect on our moral poverty. Here we must descend into painful reckoning: moral poverty hurts! Yet Scripture assures us that we who face poverty within and without can find the One who wants to be the treasure of our hearts. Rather than being reminded of our aloneness, we find that He is knitting us together with like-minded ones. Through Christ, we poor ones descend then arise into a glorious Kingdom.
Prayer for Ash Wednesday, March 5th: ‘Father, we are like the Laodiceans: wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Open our eyes to see our poverty of spirit; cover our shameful nakedness. (Rev. 3:17, 18) This Lent, grant us special grace to seek You, the source of our riches, even as we are reminded of how much we need You. Thank you for all the ways You make Your Presence known to us. You have not left us as poor orphans. You advocate for us in our poverty and make us rich.’ AMEN
Prayer for Thursday, March 6th: ‘Father, open our eyes to the folly of ‘gay marriage’ and the efforts of many, including Federal District Attorney Eric Holder, to encourage states around the country to honor ‘gay marriages’ illegally. Rouse us to recognize real marriage and our real moral poverty.’ AMEN
Prayer for Friday, March 7th: ‘Father rouse Your Church, including our own communities, to stand for the whole truth of our moral poverty and the riches that only Jesus can provide us. Make us sober in this reckoning, yet expectant of His almighty intention to bless us with His riches.’ AMEN
Prayer for Saturday, March 8th: ‘Father, open our eyes to those persons for whom looking at their poverty is too much, too overwhelming. Grant us compassion for them; show us small ways we can make known Your rich love to them as the antidote to their suffering.’ AMEN
Prayer for Sunday, March 9th: ‘Father, as we come to Your table at our churches this day, open our eyes to Your Son who stooped down to make us great. Help us to linger before Him, that we might muse on the mystery of the One who became poor in order to make us rich. (2Cor 7:9)’ AMEN