Early this year, I felt something significant changing in the way that God was calling me to pray for the school where I work as a teacher. When I joined staff last year, my prayer strategy focused on targeting some of the spiritual strongholds related to the school’s budget and using all of my curriculum to point to Jesus Christ.
But this year has been very different. In a time of COVID where people are literally dying away for lack of breath, our world’s need for the breath of the Holy Spirit has never been more obvious. I realized very quickly that heart change through the Holy Spirit would have to be won before the external fruit of that change could ever be manifest through our school’s financial wellbeing. This year, I made my goal to build relationships with students and staff, so that the Holy Spirit could ignite hunger for more of Jesus and more of the Holy Spirit. In order to defeat the Spirit of Poverty connected with the school’s finances, we would first have to deal with people’s Poverty of Spirit.
What is Poverty of Spirit?
God loves reversals. He loves to bless younger sons (Genesis 25:23, Matthew 1). He loves to rename the child called “Not my son” as “My Son” (Hosea 2:23, Romans 9:24-25). He loves to call the abandoned wife “Married” (Isaiah 62:4, Ruth 4). He loves to give the barren couple children (Isaiah 54, Luke 1:5-25). He loves to make those with weakened bodies healthy and strong (Matthew 15:31, Ezekiel 37:1-14).
In Matthew 5:3, Jesus utters a revolutionary phrase:
“Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.”Matthew 5:3
Surrounded by the rest of the Beatitudes, Jesus’ call to the Poor in Spirit is an invitation to those who are in desperate need of his Holy Spirit. Jesus promises us that when we are full of his Holy Spirit, we will be transformed to reflect his love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Beyond just transformation, our spiritual inheritance is to live in the resurrection power of God and represent his Kingdom. According to Mark 16:17-18, Believers will be full of the Holy Spirit to work miracles on the Earth, “driv[ing] out demons; speak[ing] in new tongues; picking up snakes with their hands, being unaffected by any deadly poison, and laying their hands on the sick so they will be made well.”
While material wealth may not be guaranteed in this life, but God can choose to increase an individual or organization’s financial wellbeing as a manifestation that they are spiritually prosperous in him (Deuteronomy 28, 3 John 1:2, Haggai 2:8). It is possible that this spiritual inheritance can manifest as material wealth that they faithfully steward for the glory of God and his Kingdom (Luke 16:10, 2 Corinthians 8:7).
Either way, in order to be truly rich, we must start with the Spirit. If a person is spiritually bankrupt (as we all are without God’s direct intervention), there is no amount of external wealth that can make any difference to their deepest wellbeing. If a person has the Holy Spirit through their faith in Christ (Acts 2:38, John 14:26), they have become like a rich person and are forever defined by their spiritual inheritance, which they receive from God (Romans 8:17, John 14:23).
This inversion of values between material wealth and spiritual wealth is crucially connected. Part of this inversion happens at the identity level as individuals come to know that they have been given incredible riches through Christ. By realizing how rich they are, God gives them the capacity to be even more generous, which can increase individual’s or organizations’ financial favor as the Holy Spirit blesses their acts of generosity.
The reality of our riches in God is not always evident in the life of the life of the Church. Over time and history, the church’s spiritual riches have often abounded paradoxically in times of financial hardship. For example, the Apostle Paul describes the sacrificial and generally uncomfortable ways he and others have radically spent themselves to pursue God (Matthew 6:19).
“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships, and calamities; 5in beatings, imprisonments, and riots; in labor, sleepless nights, and hunger; 6in purity, knowledge, patience, and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7in truthful speech and in the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8through glory and dishonor, slander and praise; viewed as imposters, yet genuine; 9as unknown, yet well-known; dying, and yet we live on; punished, yet not killed; 10sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”2 Corinthians 6:4-10
Paul doesn’t condemn wealth, but describes how ultimately he works to “make many rich”. Paul isn’t talking about financial prosperity. Instead, Paul is talking about the disciples tested capacity to release the riches of the Kingdom of God. While materially poor, Paul and the other disciples were incredibly rich in the Holy Spirit, and had enormous trust that God would provide. Paul’s view of material wealth challenges both the rich and the poor not to define their identities through their riches or poverty, but through their spiritual citizenship in God’s Kingdom. Paul tells Timothy,
Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be conceited and not to put their hope in the uncertainty of wealth, but in God, who richly provides all things for us to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, and to be generous and ready to share, treasuring up for themselves a firm foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.2 Timothy 6:17-19
In Revelation, Jesus challenges individuals and churches to be spiritually hungry and not deny their spiritual lack.
You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, white garments so that you may be clothed and your shameful nakedness not exposed, and salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. 19Those I love, I rebuke and discipline. Therefore be earnest and repent.Revelation 2:17-19
A Blessing for Spiritual Hunger
While I continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to awaken the people’s hunger for more of Christ, I have begun to see a yearning in my students and a curiosity in members of staff to encounter the power of God. Would you join me in prayer?
Are you Poor in Spirit, and desperate for God to make you rich in Spirit? Check out this video to learn more about how Jesus’ birth and his offer of salvation can make you eternally rich.