CIMAGALATHERE’S, of course, a good and a bad poverty. The bad one is common and obvious enough to see, and we have every right and duty to eliminate it. It comes in many forms, like widespread hunger, systemic illiteracy and ignorance, massive confusion and unemployment, slow-growing and failing economy, etc.
But there’s also a good poverty, the kind that is supposed to be lived by everyone, and especially by the rich, famous and powerful who are actually most vulnerable to the worst kind of poverty. Unfortunately, this good one is practically the exception rather than the rule nowadays.
This good poverty is the poverty of spirit, as enshrined in one of the beatitudes—“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” (Mt 5,3) and reiterated many times by Christ in his teachings, like when he said:
“Everyone who has left house or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.” (Mt 19,29)
This good poverty, this poverty of spirit means a great hunger for God, since the worst poverty is to be without God, the source of all good things in life here and hereafter. Our need for God far outweighs our need for any material and earthly thing—money, fame, power.
This poverty of spirit, this great hunger for God is therefore most advisable especially for those in positions where temptations to forget God and to simply be at the mercy of the allurements of worldly things abound. In fact, it is not only advisable. It is necessary.
This is the case of the rich, popular and powerful people—politicians, tycoons, celebrities, artists, etc., who, as we have been seeing and hearing lately, are involved in the most heinous kind of corruption and self-enrichment.
While you would think that since they already have much money, fame and power, they would already be contented, the evidence at hand, however, presents the opposite. They crave for more. Their lust for more becomes so sordid they look addicted or possessed by some demons.
They start to see things very differently. What was black and white before now becomes a crazy mix of borderless colors. There are those who are so smart and clever that they can cover their greed for some time. But they themselves know it is only a matter of time before things explode.
We need to develop in a more determined way this good kind of poverty. We cannot take this need for granted anymore. We have to act on it with urgency to make it second nature to us and a functioning culture to all.
And it’s first of all a matter of reconciling ourselves with God. Without that, without our conversion, there’s no way we can truly live this good kind of poverty that actually enriches us in the proper way.
One main problem here is that widespread bias that puts God out of the picture, or at least, he is put in the margins, in our affairs with money, fame and power. This attitudinal barrier has to be smashed.
Sad to say, this dangerous mindset can even afflict Church people who, like Judas, can appear to be with God when in fact they are not. Judas helped himself to the common fund, and that must have contributed to his betraying Christ.
Everyone has to examine his conscience to see if his mind and heart are so in love with God that they are willing to be detached from earthly things so as to be with God alone. For with God, we would already have everything in their right proportion.
Let’s live temperance, restraint and moderation in the use of earthly goods, so that we don’t spoil ourselves and make ourselves blind and deaf to the things of God and the things of everyone else.
Let’s also cultivate the keen sense of justice and solidarity, since we have to understand that all earthly goods have a universal destination, even if we also have the right to private ownership. Good poverty is not only a matter of loving God. It is very much loving others.
This is also another thing that is hardly known, let alone, understood by many people—how to blend the human principle of the universal destination and distribution of goods with the right to private ownership.
Let’s pray that one way or another this good poverty becomes a living reality in our midst, with those in high position leading the way.