The readings are taken from Track Two, here.

Frankly, I’m not sure why the reading from Hebrews is included, because it doesn’t seem to fit thematically with the others.

But the other three, or at least parts therein, all deal with the honor due to those who maintain richness of spirit despite poverty of material circumstances.

In Kings, Elijah and the poor woman and her family all find sustenance provided, by God, from what seems (literally and figuratively) like very thin gruel indeed. In the psalm, several verses pre-figure the Sermon on the Mount, speaking of The Lord who lifts up the oppressed, the hungry, the blind, the orphans and widows, etcetera.

As in the Beatitudes, the poor and lowly are cared for and exalted.

Finally, in the Gospel reading, we are told the moving, famous story of the poor woman who gave her last two coins to the Temple treasury, with Jesus teaching that she gave more than the large amounts donated by the wealthy, because “she out of her poverty has put in everything she had.”

What I see in these passages is not so much some sort of promise of divine “levelling” in the afterlife, so that those who had the least will get most and those who were wealthy on Earth get punished. This sort of cosmic scorekeeping isn’t really supported by any deeper or contextual reading of the Gospels (although a cursory reading of some passages might seem to suggest otherwise).

Instead, I think the deeper meaning here is that in God’s realm, wealth is immaterial. It is neither something to take pride in nor something to cause shame. It is neither salvific nor meriting punishment. It is instead unimportant, for good or ill. It is an adornment, not an indicator of character.

What is important is not whether we are materially poor or rich, but that we all are and will be spiritually poor unless we open ourselves to communion with God and to finding spiritual sustenance through and from Him.

Those in this world who are materially poor may be in a position to discover this truth sooner than those who enjoy relative plenty — because they find more immediately that God’s sustenance can bolster them when times are materially tough.

But what ennobles them is not their poverty; what ennobles is the reaction to poverty. Those who, like the poor widow, give all that they have, are the ennobled poor; those who, like the servant who hoarded the talents, merely scrimp and grasp, are no more ennobled than is the rich man compared to the camel unable to traverse the eye of a needle.

We are all spiritually poor without God; we are all spiritually wealthy if we respond with love and gratitude to that which God has provided us.

This is, after all, the same Lord, as the psalm says, “who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them; [and, most encouragingly], who keeps his promise for ever.”

 

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