La Jolla, California. A hilly seaside community located along the Pacific Coastline. Mild climate; surrounded by beaches; funded by businesses in lodging, dining, shopping, software, finance, real estate, bio-engineering, medical practice, and scientific research; home of high art, education, and culture; birthplace of the country’s affluent.
“From world-class shopping to one-of-a-kind dining,” La Jolla’s official web site reads. “Shimmering ocean views to timeless landmarks. Beach culture to high culture. Each day, there’s a new experience waiting for you. Welcome to La Jolla. Take it in. The jewel of Southern California sparkles in vacation sunshine year-round.”
Wow. Wouldn’t it be a dream to live in a place like that? To leave the grind of mortgages and doctor bills and farm payments and live in a place that sparkled in vacation sunshine? To us of the peasant world, La Jolla is an unreality on a par with Cinderella’s fairy tale courtship. In 2009, the cost of a simple four bedroom home in La Jolla was reported at $2.1 million, money most of us will never see.
If you are like me, you shake your head. You think of the kids in the inner cities, the Somalians in the refugee camps, the surging Latinos on the Mexican border, and you think it a shame that so much of the world’s most necessary resource–money–is wasted on seven miles and thirty-two thousand people in a corner of Southern California. You laugh a little–because it is pointless to do anything else–and you are not jealous, only stunned–and you wonder, What would it be like?
These people are lucky, we think. Insanely so. We might not want to be quite that rich ourselves–enough is enough, after all–but still, they are fortunate.
Jesus said in Luke 6:20, “Blessed are the poor.” In Matthew, he talks about the poor in spirit, which carries a slightly different connotation, but in Luke it is only this: “Blessed are the poor.”
Blessed: fortunate, well-off, supremely blest.
Poor: a beggar, cringing, distressed, pauper. Denotes absolute dependence
Let me repeat Jesus’ words, in modern terms. “Fortunate are the immigrants, the inner city kids, the refugees.” By automatic inverse: “Unlucky are the surgeons, the bio-engineers, and the real estate brokers of La Jolla.”
Think about it. The Bible says that God Himself will undertake for the poor, but who will undertake for the rich? Who prays for them? Who among the nations really cares about them, unless it is to take from them? In their minds and our minds, the rich are largely self-sufficient. Jesus was sad for the rich young ruler. “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” he said.
My dad says the poor understand more about life than the rich. We were talking once, about some particular church disagreement–one of those where someone thinks someone isn’t following the Bible the way they should, and that someone is offended by it. Self-importance, Dad calls it. “If we had to walk 3 miles for water, we wouldn’t be busy thinking about how we’re gonna be so faithful to God, and how much we’re gonna help Him,” Dad said.
I saw his point. If I had to walk 3 miles for water, I probably wouldn’t think so much about what a good Christian I want to be. I wouldn’t envision myself as a tide-turner, saving the world from the evils of the world. I wouldn’t picture myself entering heaven at some future time, shining as a star in my faithfulness to God. If I had to walk 3 miles for water, I would concentrate on getting the water.
Maybe, if all of us had to concentrate on getting the water, the world would be a better place.
Money shrouds truth. It puts glimmer on the unglamorous, graciousness on the un-good, self-importance on the nobodies.
Every one of us makes absolutely no difference to anyone in the world but ourselves and the one or two people nearest us. There is absolutely nothing we can do, in a large sense, to make the world a worse or a better place. It is the world–we are living in it–and that is all. But when you have money, and maybe you have a lot of money, and maybe you live in La Jolla, such truths are easily overlooked.
All you see is the false glow surrounding money. Or you see it surrounding your religion. Or your career. Or any of a hundred things that distract from one simple truth: We are nobodies. We need God. And blessed are the poor, because they realize it, and realizing it, turn to Him.
May we ever be poor.