Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Poverty

The blessings of poverty I ask from Thee now…

A coarse robe.

A rope belt.

A mat of reeds.

Plain and honest fare.

The good company of my fellows.

Lady Poverty, romance me now:

Away from my comforts—

My clothes

My books

My bed

My food

My gadgets—

Away from myself and all that is mine…

Let it be yours instead.

If I am rich,

May I be rich in giving,

To spend myself for others.

If I am poor,

May I still be rich in giving,

To spend myself for others.

Give me charity enough

To give humbly and gladly

And humility enough

To gladly accept,

With thanksgiving,

The charity of friends.

May Christ and His Kingdom be

My security

My peace

My pleasure

My hope for years to come.

May I be rich enough to aid my neighbors

And poor enough to value nothing

That is not found in Christ.

These blessings of poverty I ask from Thee now—

To use Your money as you would have it used, O Lord,

And to be myself,

Apart from property or station,

As You would have me be.

Poor to the world

And rich to the Kingdom;

Poor to myself

And rich to my neighbors;

Poor to my will

And rich unto Christ.

All I have is from Your hand,

And all do I give back to Thee—

For grace,

For life,

For Your design,

For the fellowship of poverty.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

As usual, you cut right to the heart of things, and I enjoyed this piece very much--it bears a crucial message in a direct but not overbearing way. You seem, however, to be caught here between romantic images of a traditional life of religious poverty and your actual practice (and, I'm guessing, your convictions) regarding the use of wealth. Now, you may really want to wear a coarse robe, a rope belt, and sleep on a mat, but not only might your wife object, the actual value of that in your current cultural context is questionable. Now, I do think our lives should model some sort of prophetic protest against the idolatry of possessions in our culture, and the means we choose to do that may be radical, but do you really think that even the cultural equivalents of "a coarse robe, a rope belt, and a mat of reeds" are advisable? In other words, are you writing from the perspective of St. Francis et al. or from your own perspective, and if you're trying to conflate the two (as I would suspect), do you realize that the connection requires certain actions from you? If it is really your desire to live that way, you would have to give away your bed and most of your clothes and then begin making your own clothes or wearing only what other people give to you. Maybe that appeals to you, and if so, go for it! I will be interested to see how it works out. If it works well, maybe you can count me in too.

JOB

Matt Burden said...

A good thought. On the whole, though, I was intending to use those first series of images merely as symbols of the traditional Christian ideal of poverty--not as its current incarnation ought to be. As for many things, these thoughts grew for me out of the inspiration of the history of the church, and I wanted to find a way to "tip my hat" to that. Perhaps I could have done it more clearly. Thanks again for the thoughtful comment.