On sending out his disciples, Jesus told them to take no supplies for their journey. If we think he was telling them to practice the virtue of poverty we might be mistaken. Because he followed up those words by telling them to stay with people, and to eat what was put before them.
He didn’t want them to stay at Holiday Inns from which could saunter out for controlled meeting with ordinary people. No, he wanted them to stay with ordinary people, getting to be one of them.
The fact that the Bible was not keen on poverty as such was made clear in the first reading which tells us, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; provide me with only the food I need; lest being full I deny you, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or being in want, I steal. “
I was amused by Bernard Malamud’s story “The Assistant.” The Assistant was a drifter who visited the same lunch counter every morning, dragging one cup of coffee out for an hour, all the while telling the guy behind the counter that he, the Assistant, was modeling his life on that of St. Francis Assisi. He was explaining how poverty had become his lady fair.
The counter guy didn’t much mind, because he was spending the time with his spread sheet, working out his afternoon bets. Eventually, however, he had too much of it, so putting down his spreadsheet, he leveled with the Assistant, telling him, “Listen buddy, poverty aint no beautiful lady. Poverty is a dirty business.”
That’s true. Poverty is a dirty business.