Blessed Are the Poor

Blessed Are the Poor

The latest statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau about poverty are heartbreaking. How is it possible that, in one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, 1 out of 6 people are living below the poverty line? Many of us will never have to know what it feels like to be poor (thank God). But when so many people in our cities and neighborhoods are in the grips of poverty (especially blacks, Latinos, and children), we need to pay attention and take it personally.

I remember being in a tight financial situation in college. I was a sophomore renting a room from a family in my church. I grew up poor and was the first in my family to go to college. Fortunately, the family I lived with during my freshman year shared my precarious situation with their friends before they moved. They knew that my chances of finishing college were slim without additional help. I was always struggling to work, carry a full class load, and eat. One anonymous person made a deep impression on me through her unexpected generosity. Every few weeks, I would randomly receive a check from this person with a note that said, “God told me to send this to you.” The checks usually came when I was at my lowest point. When they came, I cried out of sheer joy and relief. Years later when I inquired about my anonymous benefactor, I discovered that she was a single, middle-aged woman living on a fixed income.  At first I felt guilty — this woman who had very little sacrificed to support someone she didn’t even know — but then I felt a sense of awe. This woman gave out of her scarcity in a way that challenged my ideas about wealth, prosperity, and poverty. Ever since, I have followed her example in helping others.

As I have matured in my understanding of the Bible, I have noticed that God rarely extols a person simply because of his or her wealth. For wealth to be meaningful, wisdom has to be nearby. If not, we can end up like many celebrities and lottery winners: miserable. Solomon demonstrated this when God gave him a choice between wisdom and riches. He chose wisdom, but God blessed him with both. And his later life is a cautionary tale on the connection between wealth and pride. Godly wisdom is the sure sign of God’s blessings. We have it backward, which is why we forget that God can give His wisdom to anyone — even those we consider poor. 

God’s Concern for the Poor

According to the new census report, 46.2 million Americans are now living in poverty, the largest on record dating back to 1959 when the census began tracking poverty. This has considerable political implications considering the uptick in the unemployment rate and the debt ceiling legislation that just passed.

Defining poverty is not an exact science. For instance, by current standards, a white family of six would be considered poor even though they may make $50,000 a year combined, own their home, and live frugally. Yet the face of poverty in the U.S. media is usually a black single mother with children. Politics and election cycles often decide how the media will see poverty.

In his book Just Generosity, theologian Ron Sider makes it clear that there is room in God’s economy for the less fortunate. He points us to the Old Testament, where Yahweh charges the Israelites to remember where they came from and care for those who need help within their community. Once they settled in Canaan, the concept of gleaning (leaving leftover crops for the poor) in Leviticus 19:9-10 and the Year of Canceling Debts in Deuteronomy 15: 1-6 applied to everyone. Jesus said he came to preach the good news to the poor. There are many other scriptures that support God’s concern as well. 

The Widow’s Example

The crazy thing about wealth is that as we accumulate more of it, we typically find ourselves becoming ever more desperate to preserve it. We may not even be greedy or materialistic people. But the natural instinct is to get as much as we can, and then hold on to it. This is one reason why people with great wealth are rarely as happy as you’d expect.

One of the best antidotes to spiritual discontent is giving. And, paradoxically, it’s often those with the least who give the most. According to a variety of recent studies, lower-income Americans are the most charitable persons in our country. But our media would have us believe that the most generous people are the wealthy. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful when a Bill Gates or a Mark Zuckerberg donates millions to education or a third-world country. But I’m even more encouraged by my high school students who took up a collection to help a classmate’s family with funeral expenses. Most of them come from impoverished communities. This is one reason why the story of the widow’s offering in Luke 21:1-4 should have relevance for us: the widow sacrifices exorbitantly while the rich hoard their wealth.

Those who don’t have a lot have recognized the simple wisdom that God loves a cheerful giver and that He truly provides. The anonymous woman who helped me get through college believed this. And today’s Christians, along with our current crop of politicians, should work harder to remember this as well.

In part two of this post, I’ll share some ways that we can learn from those who are living in poverty. Please stay tuned, and share your thoughts about poverty, wealth, and generosity in the comments section below.

All My Single Ladies!

The Bible says, “A man who finds a wife finds a good thing!” So, my single ladies, are you a “good thing” or used goods? How many more men will you let into your life that simply want to USE you … physically, financially, emotionally, spiritually? Hopefully your answer is “no more,” and you’re ready to give God full control of your love life.

My single ladies, I want to speak restoration, wisdom, and strength into your life right now … so you can walk down a path toward becoming the “good thing” God wants you to be — and perhaps find your own “good thing” in the process.

Another blast of Scripture for you: “A prudent wife is a gift from the Lord ” (Prov.19:14). Well, ladies, if you are a GIFT, keep it wrapped tight. Don’t let the bow slip off until it’s time for the big reveal! Don’t let just anyone unwrap you! You are a beautifully wrapped gift and will be presented to your husband-to-be by God in God’s time.

Listen, sisters, if you’re a single woman of God waiting for marriage, this message is for you. Are you ready?

Y’all better go wake up your girlfriends, and send them this link, because Cee Cee is ’bout to give you some truth for your life right now! If you’re feeling lonely, inferior, desperate, or depressed … this one’s for you. Listen up and check out these 20 nuggets of real-life relationship wisdom, because something here is a message from the Lord to you.

1. No Begging Allowed. If you are feeling rejected by your current boyfriend as we speak … he is not for you. No one should have to beg for affection and compliments. You should never have to ask a man, “Baby, do you think I am beautiful?”

2. Follow Their Example. No women in the Bible put their lives on hold to find a husband. Not Mary, Not Rebekah, Not Ruth, Not Rachel, Not Esther, certainly Not Eve! These women all were busy working and serving when their husbands found them.

3. Pursue Self-Improvement. Work on yourself, ladies. What’s God tellin’ ya? Get an advanced degree, launch a business, redecorate your rooms, learn to create a loving atmosphere for your home, plant a garden, make a scrapbook, write a novel, sew, knit, take cooking classes, take a ballroom dance class, learn how to put up drywall. Then get involved at your church — volunteer to sing in the choir, teach Sunday school, or work with the youth. GOD LOVES WHEN YOU SERVE HIM, and it’s a must to explore your various spiritual gifts while you’re still single!

4. Wait for It. Ladies, this is an obvious one but oh so easy to forget: Please do not have sex with a guy before marriage! This so clouds everything, and you know this! Emotions get attached, or you become physically attached and then may manipulate the guy into marrying you when neither of you are truly ready. Uggh! Not good! Not God!

5. Only God Makes You Whole. Ladies: Please know that you are okay and you are excellent and you are whole without a husband. You must be whole before marriage. Two halves do not make a whole concerning marriage! Marital Math is: Whole + Whole = a Wholesome Marriage. Never say, “I just am not complete without him. He makes me complete! He is the air I breathe!” WHAT?! Girl, JESUS is the air you breathe. Don’t confuse a man with the Son of Man. Keep your priorities straight.

6. Is He Serious About God? If your man does not know the Word, apply the Word, live the Word, speak the Word, pray the Word, and meditate on it, then he does not have his sword — which means he’s not gonna be able to fight for you or your marriage! WAKE UP, somebody! A true soldier straps on his sword every day, baby!

7. Beware of the Bling. “Put a Ring On It?” Not so fast! Do not fall for every ring that comes your way. Anyone can flash a ring at you. Some brothers even recycle rings from the last girl that said no!!!! Whew Jesus! Ya betta go tell yo friends this stuff!

8. Do Your Homework. Before you get too far in a relationship, be sure to ASK if he has ever had a drinking problem, abuse problem, drug problem, if he was abused or molested in any way, if he’s been to jail, got warrants, pays child support, even sees his children, has current pictures of his children, been tested recently for HIV and other STDS. Will he even go take an HIV test for you? And if not, why?

9. Yeah, I’m Going There. If he even seems gay … please just let it go, ladies. My God! Stop the madness for real. Who are his friends? Is he extra effeminate? Does he wax his brows? Can’t live without his guy friends and boy trips? Wake up, woman! You are a COVER GIRL!

10. A Word to the Brothers. The Down Low is on the rise. Pay attention, ladies. (And men, get yourself together. STOP ruining women’s lives just to make yourself look straight on the outside. The truth is gonna come out. Some of ya’ll should get an Emmy for the act you put on. Just get truthful with God. How dare you use a woman and then bring up children in that deception and confusion!)

11. No Shackin’ Up. If you are living with your current boyfriend, consider moving out right now! Pack yo’ bag and go to the nearest sistah friend house, or back to your mama, or get a nice li’l 2 bedroom with a girlfriend and split the rent. Come on, now … there has got to be away that you can be self-sufficient. And if YOU took him in cuz he had nowhere to go, umm … where exactly is that going? Honestly!

12. I Repeat, You Need to Wait. Even if you are engaged, please do not live together to save money … Just have him live with a relative until the BIG DAY! There are options, ladies. DO NOT CHEAT! It is so worth it to move in on that big day! Get prepared, but do not cut corners like that.

13. Garbage In, Garbage Out. Ask him now if he likes PORN. People, this junk will ruin — did you hear me? — RUIN a marriage! And if you are hooked on porn, hit my inbox and let me pray with you right now. ‘Cause U got to come up off of that! It’s fake, scripted, perverse, and passionless. They want you to think it’s what sex is, but IT’S NOT. It is godless and destructive! And it has no place in a marriage. LET GOD direct your marital sex life, not X-rated videos!

14. Get Over Yourself. If you are spoiled and selfish — and you know it — DO NOT GET MARRIED … just keep loving your doggone self. You are a Last Days personthe Lord said there would be many … so just keep being a lover of yourself! Just admit it! Maybe if you face it, God will Heal you from it and you will actually be able to LOVE someone else!

15. Is He Trippin’ on the Past? He got the nerve to hold your past against you? What! OMG! Let it go! If he cannot see the God in you now because he’s too distracted by what you used to be, let that suckah loose! We are new in Christ! All old has passed away… and you walkin’ the narrow way too and he wanna talk about who and how you use to be? Awww nawww player … naw! Cut it loose, baby girl! The accuser type! Diggin’ up your buried past! Later!

16. Be Wise About Online Hookups. Beware of using the Internet to find a man. People ain’t always what they seem to be on here. Some ladies are on Match.com, Matchmaker.org, Hitched.com, BlackPlanet, Eharmony, Emarriage … just a searchin’. First, search the Scriptures, baby girl! Many of ya’ll have wrecked Facebook already, just plain abused it, trying to find a man. Some have ruined other women’s marriages! Sad! Beware, ladies!

17. Does He Prefer the Old You? If you meet a man and he is more attracted to the old, unsaved you than the new, saved you … RUN, FORREST, RUN!!!

18. Get the Big Picture. Check out his family and other parts of his life. Meet the parents! If his dog is scared of him, honey run! If he kicks a dog, he will kick you. If he cheats on his taxes, he might cheat on you. If he lies to his mama and his boss, he’ll lie to you. I am so serious! Ya’ll betta open you eyes!

19. What’s Comin’ Outta His Mouth? If he consistently, and in a negative or pushy tone, says you are: fat, ugly, dumb, not good enough, too much, too little, too this, too that … tell him that he’s too unlike Christ for youSee ya!! A real man will do whatever it takes to win your heart with LOVE, not criticism and abuse!

20. Pray Early and Often. Single ladies, one more thing. If God blesses you with a partner someday, one of the most important activities you will do as a wife (without fail) is PRAY FOR YOUR HUSBAND. Well, why not start praying for him now in advance? It makes for great practice. That way, it will be more of a natural part of who you are when he finally comes. Pray for his health, his thought life, his finances, his heart! Pray in advance! Can’t hurt! It certainly worked for me!

That’s my 20, ladies. I’ve got plenty more, but I’ll let you reflect on these for a minute. Here’s the bottom line: In a mutual relationship, a man will do ONLY what you let him do to you … it takes two. So, call on GOD for strength, wisdom, holiness, and self-control right now. You need the Word more than just on Sunday mornings when Pastor is preaching it. Keep your soul ready, your mind sharp, your hair right, and your muscles tight. Keep smiling and believing, single ladies. This is your day!

Michael Jackson: Solomon Sans Wisdom

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009).

Michael Jackson is dead at 50. And that’s the end of it. On a day already made gloomy by the death of actress Farrah Fawcett, the King of Pop’s earthly reign came to an end.

And while I’m devastated for his family, mourning alongside countless fans around the world, my heart is mostly numbed by the news. After hours of watching media coverage of Michael’s death — the replaying of his music videos, the reaction interviews with celebrities, and the speculation over what will happen with his children and multi million-dollar estate — I am empty.

My sadness seems echoic, its source distant and remote. After all, the Michael Jackson I love died years ago, back in the ’90s before pajama-clad court appearances and fatherhood foibles turned him into a shadow of the king he once was. That Michael, the one from Off the Wall and Thriller who provided the soundtrack for the ’80s and inspired generations of men to float like feathers on their feet, died long ago. And though he’s periodically released new albums like HIStory or Invincible, hoping for a resurrection as if singing careers rise from the dead like Lazarus, I, like many of his fans, have been grieving the loss of the man he once was for decades.

And though the tones of grief are muted, my heart does break a bit in this moment for the marred legacy he leaves behind. Despite 40 years in the music business, over 75 million albums sold, and at least a half billion dollars earned, this is where his life ends — his reputation sullied by rumors of pedophilia and tarnished by eccentricity.

And while I hate to think of someone else’s life as an object lesson from which to learn, there is insight to be gained from this, our tragic loss. Michael was a consummate artist whose talent unequivocally transformed the music industry and opened the doors for black artists the world over. Inarguably, he was the best falsetto singer, the best dancer, the most generous celebrity, and the most creative entertainer of our time. And yet, I imagine the final song Michael’s life will sing is that the best is not enough. As brightly as his star shone in its height, his life ended in darkness. He was a modern Solomon sans wisdom, living life in excess unto death.

And maybe that explains the part of the King of Pop’s death that leaves me feeling hollow. Because I suspect in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’ve wanted to be Michael — well, maybe Michael without the glove, high-water pants, and plastic surgery. But to some degree his lifestyle exemplified the realization of some of my darkest desires.

I don’t mean to preach or dishonor Michael’s memory; but, let’s be real. When you consider the striving of our lives — our daily efforts to obtain more wealth, achieve greater success, improve our looks, or indulge our amusements — we are all, to varying degrees, becoming Michael Jackson. He was just better at it than we are. And throughout his life, and now more so in his death, we see where it leads. Want money? He had millions, and it isolated him. Want fame? Then trade in your privacy and give up ownership of your life. Want some ideal of beauty? Prepare to lose the brilliance with which God created you. Want to recapture former glory? Then live a stunted life, freakishly trying to replicate past success. For all his record breaking and making, Michael died a misunderstood, isolated, and financially insolvent artist.

This isn’t to say that his life was lived entirely in vain. Michael undoubtedly brought joy to millions through his music and humanitarian work, and he will leave a legacy of entertainment for many generations to come. But his permanent seeking, the self-acknowledged desires to be Peter Pan or become immortal, reveal that the things of this world never quite satisfied. I pray that his death becomes our own permission to stop trying so hard to be rich, famous or successful. Maybe now we can be content to live small lives, full to the brim with quiet purpose and satisfaction. (In this current economic environment, perhaps this will be an easier lesson for us to grasp.)

Of course we’ll miss Michael Jackson. We have for quite some time. But let’s make our tribute to him one that lasts. As he would have encouraged us to do, let’s look at the man in the mirror and live lives that are changed for the better by his story.

Related Article:The Pop Reconciler