In which poor is not so bad

by Craig on December 17, 2010

If I have everything, Our Lord must be more.

If I have nothing, he must be enough.

James 1: 9 “The brother in lowly circumstances should take pride in his high standing,”

Verses 9-11 kind of all go together: poor person, rich person, and flowers in the sun. First, right here in verse 9, is the poor person. The question? How should they feel about things?

Some translations have this word, that literally means “humble”, translated as poor. There’s a good reason for that. In the Greek, the words for “the one in lowly circumstances” are “ὁ ταπεινὸς”. If you’ve read me for a while you know how I love me some Greek. And now for the pronouncing.

“ὁ ταπεινὸς” – “the one in lowly circumstances”

is pronounced ho topinos

with the accent on the colored part,

and always pronounced like a Greek Chef.

Seriously, say it few times, and you’re speakin’ Greek!

So why is “poor”, a not so bad translation, for a word that usually means “humble”? Because context tells me that “humble in circumstance” is really what James is conveying with these words. Humble in circumstance means poor. And James has a pretty obvious contrast thing going on in these verses – the poor, contrasted with the “rich”, only one sentence away.

Here’s a little about me.

My circumstances have been better in my life. They’ve been worse too. I’m content – but if I look around at other people – and start to compare – there goes the contentment. Right now, and this is not easy for a man to admit, I’d be classified with this group – the poor – not with rich ones.

The shrinking away I feel, when I compare with others,  is actually a good thing. The comparison game the world provides us with is nasty. There is always someone with more. There is always someone to be jealous of.

I find that this shrinking away I feel when I look around is humbling. I need humble. I was once arrogant, and sometimes, even in my lowly circumstance, arrogance tries to make a comeback. And it’s far better to be humble.

So do I like the rougher circumstances?


Do we need to ask?

But I like what being in the lowly circumstances does to my spirit. It puts it in the “high spiritual position”. To be rich, and yet remain in the spiritual “high position” – well there’s a person who has it right.

But with little or nothing, the circumstances bring me low, no trying necessary. So like it or no – it’s blessed.

It’s better to be humble.

It’s more like Our Lord.

And that’s what I want.

So really, the being poor? Not so bad.

James is onto this fact. He’s a guy brimming with wisdom. I’m on board with him. I didn’t used to be. But I know now that being reduced has given me wisdom. I can name that tune, because I’ve lived it. I know that James is right.

So is it kind of a blessing to be poor? It’s written in the Gospel of Luke, “Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”

So yes,

I know this

I know for fact

that it is kind of a blessing

to be poor,

because there are fewer things

between me and God.

And I need fewer things between me and God. If I had more, would I be wise enough to keep God between me and all those things? Other people might have to answer that question right now.

I may have to at some time.

But I don’t have to now,

because I’m one of those lucky poor.

And right now, I’m not feeling too bad about it.

Thank you James.

God Bless.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie December 17, 2010 at 3:14 am

This is so true and perfectly spoke. Thank you for showing us the blessings and how they work! God bless you!


Craig December 17, 2010 at 9:25 am

Deb Thank you – funny how you (read I) don’t really catch some thruths until they smack you (read I) in the face. God Bless.


Anonymuss December 17, 2010 at 12:22 pm

This is good, Craig. You say things so well. (Laska does, too.) When I was at my most broken and had finally cashed in all my chips was when I finally felt completely free from the kinds of worries that being poor can bring. It was a very unexpected yet liberating place to be.


Craig December 17, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Thank you A. I know you get it, I love having you read my words.


marigold December 18, 2010 at 3:25 pm

This really spoke to me. beautiful and honest post. I have been here – and yes, I compare our ‘humble’ little house and life with my “OC” neighbors, and in my worldly heart, I sometimes allow myself to ‘go’ there.

But I love our life. God is in it, and I would never want worldly riches in lue of the my Abba Father any day. This ‘humble’ – ‘poor’ state we find ourselves in is such a ‘first World’ problem.

We have so much to be thankful for.

Merry Christmas 😉


Craig December 18, 2010 at 4:43 pm

Thank you Marigold. This wealth thing, it’s insidious, if we have nothing, we want something, if we get that, we want more, if we get more, then soon that isn’t enough. It’s a system designed by someone other than God – leaving only one alternative, who doesn’t deserve mention of a name. I think your perspective on this is beautiful. God Bless you, and thank you so much for reading. And Merry Christmas to you and yours.


Anonymuss December 20, 2010 at 1:16 am

If I have everything, Our Lord must be more.

If I have nothing, he must be enough. Rereading, I love these statements!!!


Anonymuss December 20, 2010 at 1:21 am

Also love the picture that you chose to go with the pair of statements! I can imagine the figure in the picture cast in a dark metal, placed as a three-dimensional sculpture on a busy sidewalk in a large city, with your pair of statements featured along with,…so passersby may reflect…also including James 1:9…


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