How to Escape Poverty

The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, The ruin of the poor is their poverty. ~ (Proverbs 10:15; NASB)
In the world we live in, money begets money, and poverty begets poverty.  The rich have a tendency to get richer, and the poor have a tendency to get poorer.  Unlike the theories of Karl Marx, this is not primarily the result of the rich exploiting the poor, although that does happen a bit.

Rather, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is more like a law of physics.  It's akin to gravity and all of its forces. And whether you like it or not, it's just the way this world works.

Sorry Karl Marx and friends.

That's why it is so hard on individuals who are living in poverty, whether it be in America, France, or Calcutta, to escape poverty.  Poverty has a way of acting like quicksand.  The more you struggle in it, the deeper and quicker you tend to sink, and the harder it is to get free.  The only way out of it is either for somebody to help you out of it, or to make deliberate and carefully calculated moves until you eventually free yourself.

The Biblical author of Proverbs observed this phenomenon in his own life.  But instead of talking about it in terms of quicksand, he likened the entire issue unto a fortress.

Back in the early days of human civilization, there was a tendency for cities to build large walls around the borders of a town.  This was smart primarily for two reasons.  First, it kept wild animals from randomly wandering into your territory late at night, and eating your next of kin.  Second, it protected the citizens of your city from gangs and small armies looking to pillage and to loot.

Wealth is like this fortress.

If you are wealthy, that is, if you have more than the basic resources needed to sustain your life and provide for some simple creature comforts, your wealth becomes like a fortress.  Your wealth protects you from "random" animals from wandering into your village and eating you, and it also keeps others from randomly pillaging your possessions.

For example, if you are wealthy, when your car randomly breaks down, you can afford to get it fixed.    Fixing your car is still expensive, but because of your wealth, getting it fixed becomes a mere inconvenience.  But when you are poor, if your car breaks down, and you can't afford to fix it, what alternatives do you have?  You might be able to take a loan out.  But what if nobody will give you a loan?  Then you might find yourself without transportation.  And if you live more than a few miles away from work, all of a sudden your job is in jeopardy if you no longer have reliable transportation to get to work.  And if you can't get to work anymore, how will you afford to pay for food and shelter?

Likewise, while being wealthy can make you a target ("Hey, look at that nice big city over there!  I bet they have a lot of food and gold!") those who are wealthy have a way of protecting themselves from those who are looking to "pillage" them.  If they are faced with an ethical dilemma at work, or are being harassed by superior, then if one has saved up enough money, one could easily just quit their job and look for work elsewhere.  Or, if somebody decides to terrorize you with a frivolous lawsuit, being able to afford "umbrella insurance" and an attorney will protect you against something that would destroy and otherwise ruin many others.

So, what can be learned from all of this?

Biblically speaking, we should make sure that when it comes to our personal finances, that we try to save as much as we possibly can.  I know, saving money can be a very difficult thing to do.  But like giving, saving is something we must all do.  And even as the poorest amongst us can usually find something we can give to charity, even the poorest amongst us can usually find something we can save and set aside for the future.

And we need to do such, because we know we live in a world where "life happens."  Life happens to the rich, and life happens to the poor.  Life happens to those who trust in God, and life happens to those who do not.

But when we do all we can to muster up some money to save, dollar by dollar and brick by brick, we begin to build a fortress in our lives.  It may take many years to complete a walled fortress.  It's a slow and labor intensive process.  But it is something we must all do.

Look at those who have built fortresses in the past.  Why did they do such?  In the past they built fortresses because they knew their lives depended on it.  Likewise, you and I should save money like our lives depend on it.

How much should you save?

The answer to this question is going to be different for every person.  But you should save like your life depends on it.  If all you can muster is five or ten bucks a week, you should save what you can, and put it in a place where you can't easily access that money.  If this means setting up a second bank account that's not linked to your checking account, then do it.  If this means getting a piggy bank and stuffing money into it every now and then, then do it.  If this means grabbing a shovel and burying your savings in your backyard, then in God's name, do it!

You may never become very wealthy in this life.  And that is perfectly fine.  Don't try to become wealthy.  The Bible has a ton of warnings about pursuing wealth.  Trying to get wealthy may damn you for all eternity!

But there is a big difference between trying to pursue wealth and getting rich, and merely looking to build a barrier of protection in your life.  Of course, we cannot make our lives bullet proof.  There are some things that enter our lives that no amount of wealth will protect us from.  Ten out of ten people will ultimately die, as death comes for us all.

But simple things like replacing a flat tire or two should not be something that has the power to ruin the vast majority of our lives.  If we use wisdom to do things like work hard, make a budget, live within our means, and save whatever we can, then the vast majority of us should be able to create some sort of buffer between us and "life happenings."  We need to build fortresses in our lives.

We may still be poor at the end of the day.  But that doesn't mean we have to allow our poverty to ruin us.   Like escaping from quicksand, we can escape the destructive forces of poverty by slowly and carefully working our way out of it.

No comments:

Post a Comment