The Virtue of Poverty | Restraining Our Desires

In the New Testament, Christ drew our attention to the danger of riches, which, He says, are no different to the thorns that choke up the good seed of the word. Does this mean that poverty is a special and ‘holy’ virtue?

Poverty, by its very nature, has no intrinsic goodness. It is ‘good’ only because it is a useful state to remove the obstacles which stand in the way of our soul mission and what we truly feel called to pursue.

Sometimes this journey does call on us to embrace loss: be it of a relationship with someone who we loved, a country that we felt a deep bond with and even our terrible consumption and dietary habits. Embracing ‘poverty’ has a deep bond with rendering one independent of the fleeting things of earth.

Buddhism, too, teaches that one should be aware of one desires for when they become immoderate, they can cause chaos, confusion and destruction within one’s life. The Buddhist goal is to learn to moderate and restrain one’s desires.

The teachings of Christ are valuable to those who understand the need to moderate their desire for riches. At the same time, He calls for us to gladly accept when we lose and are deprived of those riches. Those words inculcate a much-needed detachment from ‘the things of this world’.

Before we pursue poverty, we should consider for a moment why people pursue wealth and perhaps even the power that comes with it. In a vast majority of cases, it is to exercise a certain level of control over their environment. They believe that with more money, they will be ‘in charge’. Others do it in order to purchase love and admiration from those around them. Others are seeking a more comfortable life that is free of financial strife. For most people, it is a combination of these three main factors.

My understanding of the virtue of poverty is that we are always in a state of poverty. It does not always refer to the amount that we have in our bank account. For the vast majority of us, we want to have savings for a rainy day. What the teaching is drawing our attention to is that we should not allow ourselves to worry too much about wealth. God, ultimately, will provide for us.

After all, it is God that gave us. And it is God that continues to give at the right time, in the right place and in the right way. It is up to us to see that poverty–while not a state one should aspire to–does not make one poor. Rather, we will all experience some form of poverty in this world.

It is only when we learn to embrace loss that we can embrace gain.

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