A Life of Poverty

We are often conditioned by societal standards and pressure to pursue wealth and success; to live a comfortable life. And as Christians, we are also called to put God first and give all our possessions to the poor (Luke 12:33). In a success-driven country like Singapore, how do we balance both lifestyles in a single lifetime?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that our King Jesus did not live a lavish life, instead he came to us in a humble birth (Luke 2:7). With his humble upbringing, Jesus served and empathized with the poor greatly (McCabe 53)1.

“Riches represent the ideal of taking the world for your own use; poverty represents the ideal of complete freedom from possessions” (McCabe 54)1.

Because Christ died for our sins, we are free from the bondage of sin, and free from the clasp of worldly riches (Gal 5:13). Being image-bearers of Christ does not literally mean to sell everything we have and put on sandals, but rather, to love those in need selflessly and generously. In Matt 5:3, Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those poor in spirit — yet another example of poverty displayed.

I have recently been captivated by the life of Mother Theresa, and the life of poverty she led — out of love and obedience to God. In her teachings and ministry, Mother Theresa highlighted the misconception of poverty that is strictly bound to just material poverty, she spoke more of people’s experience with isolation, lone-liness, and feeling unloved (Davies 971)2.

Through our own experience of poverty, let us learn to meet and serve others in theirs. Since Jesus had given his life so that we might live, we ought to live a life of humility so that others may be drawn to the eternal kingdom and not this perishing one.

In our various contexts, let us identify the cross that we need to take up daily and ask ourselves where our true treasures lie. May we be challenged and inspired by Jesus and leaders such as Mother Theresa, to go where the poorest of the poor are, to live like them, and to serve the least of them.

“So the last will be first, and the first last” (Matt 20:16)3.

Tricia Chen

1 McCabe, Herbert. God, Christ and Us. Continuum, 2005.
2 Davies, Rachel. “Poverty and Interiority in Mother Teresa.” Theological Studies, vol. 80, no. 4, Dec. 2019, pp. 967–985.
3 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. The Bible Society of Singapore. 2001.