Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two
and gave them authority over unclean spirits.
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick
–no food, no sack, no money in their belts. Mark 6:7-8
These two passages from Scripture emphasize our need to depend on God. To be “poor in spirit” means to be detached from material possessions, regardless of one’s financial reality. It is possible to own little, yet be extremely attached and possessive of what one does have. By the same token, it is possible to live in splendor and care little for material goods. Someone who is poor in spirit understands that, whether we have a great deal or relatively little, all good things come from God. To Him we owe our thanks and praise.
By the same token, Jesus sends his Apostles out into the world with very little to their name. They are given a companion (we all need friends and helpers in this world), but they have no food, no sack and no money. I don’t know about you, but I almost never leave the house without at least one of those on me, much less embark on a journey!
No, if we are going on a trip, or about to begin a new mission, we want to be prepared. We pack clothes, make sure we have snacks and drinks for the journey and adequate money in case there are any unforeseen circumstances. This is prudent.
So, what is the message God is trying to tell us in these passages? Are we supposed to take a vow of poverty and live off the kindness of strangers? Are we supposed to forsake our tendency to prepare and instead live life only on a moment by moment basis?
For some, the answer to this will be “yes.” Those called to religious life do take a vow of poverty and live largely off the charitable contributions of others. For the majority of us, however, I don’t believe that is the message we are meant to take away. Rather, I think that it calls us to stop living in fear.
Being prepared is common sense. We should do what we can to live simply and save what we able. What we should not do is be in such fear of present or future circumstances that we stop living generously. We money is tight, we tend to retract, and think of ourselves and our own needs first. God calls us instead to depend on Him. No matter how little we have, we can always share, trusting that God will repay our generosity when we need it most. And, yes, sometimes that generosity will come from the charitable efforts of others. We are all called to care for each other.
In these two passages, God tells us that we can trust Him. All our blessings, both spiritual and material, come from Him. We need to never forget that fact.