Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Margin, Poverty, and Honor

October 24, 2012

It is difficult for someone who lives hand-to-mouth to act honorably when faced with a choice which involves what they consider survival. I had a guy—we’ll call him Joe—working for me, 3 weeks away from finishing a big job, who was lured away by a competitor offering the prospect of longer-term employment. The competitor made it clear that his offer would not be there in 3 weeks. As a result of Joe leaving, I finished the job myself and made a mistake which ended up costing me a few thousand dollars, a mistake which, quite probably, Joe would not have made.

Joe lived in a rented mobile home. I don’t really know much about his situation beyond that, but I do know that most of the guys in the trade I’m in (electrical specifically, but it applies to much of the construction trade) are less than a month away from disaster financially. I know—I’ve been there. When you have that kind of margin—or, should I say, really don’t have any margin—it’s difficult to remain loyal to someone, or to act with integrity. You have to make decisions based on the pressures of the moment, and the prospects (as you see them) for the immediate future. You may say that you are honorable, but 99 times out of 100, the dollar will trump principle.

The dollar will also erode honor in one who is well off, or seems to be, but for different reasons. There is not the desperation there, but greed in its insidious manner gets hold of desire, and the greedy man finds himself justifying every decision based on financial outcome. Some who are well-off see themselves just as close to disaster as Joe did, even though in a financial crisis they could probably sustain themselves indefinitely (admittedly at a lower standard of living). The mindset of poverty is again at work in such cases—primarily through perception, which becomes reality for the perceiver.

Maybe that’s why the writer of Proverbs said,

Two things I ask of you, O Lord;

do not refuse me before I die:

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

give me neither poverty nor riches,

but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you

and say, “Who is the Lord?”

Or I may become poor and steal,

and so dishonor the name of my God.

“Neither poverty nor riches.” It’s hard to walk a line of balance in such a way as to avoid either extreme. But essentially, it comes down to attitude. True wealth is far more a matter of mindset than it is of possessions. The one who has the most possessions may feel totally impoverished—someone–Rockefeller?–once quipped, when asked how much was enough, “MORE!” On the other hand, the poorest man may own the wealth of the world, if he truly believes it so in the core of his being.

Real Worship Comes Out of Real Poverty

March 10, 2012

Real worship comes out of real poverty, a deep realization that we have nothing to offer in worship that we have not first been given.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I realized this this morning as I woke from an incredible dream. In the dream, someone was pointing out to me a drummer who had the most unusual drum. It was slightly larger than he was, shaped like a fat pancake and played as it stood on edge. He had this and maybe one small drum. I was asked, “How would he play if this cost $62,000?” I said, or maybe just thought (because I know I wasn’t really trying to prove a point): “I don’t know, but I know there are drummers who have nothing but a set of bongos, and they make that work, and can do some incredible things. Some have a most elaborate set of drums, and make it sing.” I didn’t get any answer—as I said, I wasn’t really expecting one, and maybe had just thought the idea. But a most amazing thing happened next.

The drummer in the dream began to roll back onto the floor with his super-pancake drum, and the drum rolled on top of him and changed shape just enough to become like a large cornbread muffin turned upside-down—on top of him. Suddenly, he was inside, and the drumming was not longer drumming but a thrumming that resonated, he and the drum as one. He was playing the drum, but the drum was playing him: He was the drum. It was an incredible, awe-inspiring sound—not loud, but resonant, fascinating, captivating.

And I awoke with the thought that did not seem at all relevant:

Real worship comes out of real poverty, a realization that we have nothing to offer. As I mulled on it lying there in bed, it expanded slightly, but the essence was the same. And I had to get up and write.

The dream is probably a picture of my life. Maybe it could be a picture of our economy, our world. I will leave that to you, my reader, to fit or not. I just know that I am more blessed that I have ever known, more satisfied and thankful and glad to be alive—all in the midst of being having less of what the world considers “substance” than ever in my life, less reserves to fall back on, less “security” in the financial sense, less certainty of what the future holds. I won’t bore you with the details, because…

Ultimately, all of us are in that “real poverty.” We have nothing we have not been given. Are we able to find our true worship in it? Can we roll with the “drum” and become one with it?