Whatever Happened With Voluntary Poverty?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Whatever Happened With Voluntary Poverty?

This was written by a brother in Peru. 

Whatever Happened with Voluntary Poverty?
- By Olen Yutzy

In Deuteronomy 28 God promised the children of Israel that if they were faithful to keep all the statutes and commandments he had given them through Moses, that He would bless them with bountiful harvests, many cattle, good health, etc; in short an earthly kingdom.

The Savior came to earth and began teaching with the simply profound words: ¨Repent ,for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.¨ From these words he proceeded to give teachings on many subjects, perhaps none more important or more radical than the ones He gave on poverty and wealth. In the following two thousand years the world has sought to qualify, avoid, and reason away these simple words. Professing Christians and non-Christians alike. (Permit one example: A Mennonite minister, justifying the fact that most Mennonites are wealthy, wrote this: When Christ met Jarius, the centurion,an obviously wealthy man, He didn´t ask him to sell his possessions, as in the case of the rich young ruler. Consequently Christ doesn´t require all men to sell all.
Sad, sad commentary! Sad study in self-deception. Changing,or better said,avoiding Christ´s teachings to follow a life-style , rather than changing a life-style to follow Christ´s teachings)

Nevertheless Christ gave many teachings on how we should relate to material things. Thankfully, what he taught is consistently clear, simple and easy to understand. Among various teachings on material, Christ gave the words,¨Blessed are the poor,¨ and ¨Woe to you that are rich.¨Christ told a rich young ruler to sell what he had, give to the poor, come, follow Him , and he would have treasures in heaven.The selfish young man went away sorrowful and Christ said that those who have riches will hardly enter heaven´s kingdom. Zaccheus, after conversing with Christ, said that he would sell half his goods and give them to the poor and restore threefold to those who had robbed. Christ told him salvation had come to his house.

Christ died and His disciples went forth to do what He had told them to do: They followed the Spirit of His words: among others, the ones He gave about material. Selling what they had, they laid up treasures in heaven. One of them wrote that those who are strangers and pilgrims on the earth show plainly that they seek a country .

The pagans mocked them,¨How is it possible that your God created the earth and yet you are poorer than anyone else?

The church at Smyrna continued to follow Christ´s words on poverty for a good number of years after Christ´s departure. Christ praised them and told them they were rich in their poverty. The church at Laodicea chose a different path and after much planning and thriftiness (abominable carefulness;repulsive planning) had reached a place of riches, having need of nothing. Christ said that He would vomit them from His mouth.

The often persecuted, often impoverished (in things) church struggled through the first centuries. Its men wrote their views on many things; among them, wealth and poverty. Some thought the danger is not in having riches, but only in setting our hearts on them.(Christ said the camel would have passage through the needle´s eye before the rich through the straight gate.) Others said they feared to have riches lest the poor in their affliction should cry to God and he should hear their groans and punish them, the rich. (Christ´s disciple, John, also fittingly known as the disciple of love, wrote that if we have things of this world, see our brother in need , and don´t help him, we don´t have God´s love in us)

Constantine arrived on the scene in the fourth century, conversing with the Christians; learning their doctrine. He built them beautiful buildings in which to have their meetings, and paid their pastors handsome salaries. One of them (the same man who had written about the dangers of having wealth lest the poor should cry to the Lord in their need, and the Lord punish them, the wealthy) was hired for the purpose of teaching the emperor´s son the Christian doctrines. One cannot be certain but more than likely he received a handsome sum for his services.Hopefully, he himself was able to keep the faith. Whether he did or not in uncertain. What is certain, is that true Christianity practically disappeared. with ¨help¨of Constantine.

Isolated and scattered, a faithful few kept serving Christ through the centuries, often under pain of exile, torture, or death.God only knows their names and dates. They wait under the altar for their fellow-servants and brothers.

A rich European, Peter Waldo, began feeling the Holy Spirit´s moving in the year 1170 A.D. He was conversing with the Catholic priest one day. The priest quoted Christ´s words to the rich young ruler:¨If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven; and come and follow me.¨

Moved by these words, Peter Waldo left his conversation with the priest and decided to do just what Christ had told the rich young ruler to do. (Blessed simplicity. Wise stewardship. Knowing little he obeyed richly.) Others followed his example. They lived in poverty and preached wherever they went.

Today we label these Christians as ¨Waldensians¨. After many years of spiritual health, some of their leaders met with a party of men who apparently were sympathetic with them. Unfortunately, they were also sympathetic with the Catholic church. In their meeting, some bad choices were made. Some of the Waldensian leaders compromised truth. The movement lost its life. Coming to America they built beautiful churches and prospered in the land. They exist in name today, like various other denominations who have ¨survived¨ from those European countries to the present day.

The Anabaptists, for example. In Switzerland, the year 1525 gave birth to a group of Christians to whom the world derisively gave the name Anabaptists. Forsaking their things, they fled and hid. Many died. One of their women wrote a letter to her infant son before her death by drowning at the hands of cruel men. She left him with the exhortation not to lay up even for one night the wages he earned from the sweat of his brow. She told him that if he did this, the Lord would prosper his life.

The descendants of this group began to move to the United States. Maybe they were fleeing persecution. Maybe they were even seeking a secure life in this world. Whatever the case, on they came. By the hundreds and thousands. They had been taught by their forefathers not to participate in war so they didn´t. When their fellow citizens massacred the native Indians by the thousands, bringing their existence as they had known it to an end some time before 1900, they stood by peacefully. After the bloodshed, they helped themselves to the virgin soil. Today their descendants are still there. They have good work ethics and generally live clean lives. They drive nice cars and own beautiful homes. Many of their neighbours drive cars of models older than their own and own homes of lesser quality than their own, but that´s only because they haven´t ever learned to work properly and save their money; maybe they spend all their money on cigarettes or TV.

One of these before-mentioned Anabaptists wrote a book about the Christian church through the centuries, including many details about their own movement in the sixteenth century. Their descendants buy the book and put on beautiful bookshelves, made from native oak wood. Leather bound Bibles and Bible commentaries accompany it.

If their 401k retirement fund or family owned business does well these people might take a cruise to Europe to see the actual locations and historic sites pertaining to the origins of the Anabapatist movement. Hugging authentic Swiss cuckoo clocks ( purchased for who knows what price) they return to their homes to tearfully relate how moving the experience was: The Limmat River in Zurich where Felix Manz was drowned, the Taufer Hole where the Anabaptists met for secret baptisms...

The apostles wrote about suffering. They said that we must enter the kingdom through much suffering. (Many people now are planning retirement funds: It will keep them from being a burden on society when they´re old.. A little invested at age 25 will yield enormously at age 65.. It´d be poor stewardship not to! Really! Think about it!) They also wrote that if we suffer with Christ, we will also reign with Him.

Let us conclude. Why play games? Why deceive ourselves? If we know we must enter the kingdom of heaven through much suffering, why the cold calculations, the careful saving? If we know suffering with Christ comes with the promise of reigning with Him, why carefully pre-meditate on how to eliminate suffering with a 401k?

We have the brilliant light of two thousand years of Christian history blazing in our faces. From Smyrna to Switzerland. From Laodicea to the United States of America. When Christians were willing to suffer and did suffer the church prospered. When the church began storing up things, it died. Rotted. Ceased to be a church.

Let´s choose to live. Let´s seek a city they has foundations. Let´s choose to Christians.


pilgrims said...
well thank you for posting that,it truly is a blessing to be poor,there is a peace and a freedom that far surpass the comforts of this temporal life,if i may add this verse luke 6:24...its not really worth it is it ?             I don't believe that suffering proves you are a christian,but i believe having faith does.And if you follow jesus you will need to walk by faith and not by sight.The lord will provide for you , He promised that if you seek Him first and His kingdom,He will provide for you.(Matt. 6:33) Whoever posted the comment on face book should use the bible to support there argument,not there opinion...that is very dangerous.(pro.3:5)IF GOD feeds the birds and clothes the lillys how much more will he provide for his own children ?(Matt.6:26)its not about suffering its about faith...The adversary will attack the carnal mind,but it is to those who have faith in the living GOD,the victory to overcome the world...if you trust God He will not forsake you ,you really wont be suffering at all you will be sooo blessed,maybe the person on face book thinks it will be suffering because he /she has a difficult time stepping out side of the comfort zone ? im sorry if that offends them,being poor is looked down upon in this world, but i think it is the better place to be.IT is not foolish to believe in the promises of jesus.Even thou it is viewed as foolishness, i really feel it to be wise.i dont think the man in peru was saying, inflicked yourself with suffering,because thats what GOD wants.I think he was trying to say, HEY my friends jesus will provide, he is real and he will see us threw,let us be careful for nothing,yes i am Glad he had the courage to not fear the reproach of men and speak the truth.Which one of the disciples was not a poor traveling man , name one ?even the KING OF KINGS was poor.....