I was chatting with one of our ministry partners a few weeks ago, and as we discussed South Africa’s NPO registration process, he nonchalantly made a reference to “the haves” and “the have-nots.” Having been born and raised in Lavender Hill—a coloured community in the Cape Flats highly affected by gangsterism, violence, and poverty—he was, of course, lumping himself into the have-not category.
By no means was he victimizing himself or throwing a pity party. In essence, he was simply stating a fact: There are those who have, and those who have-not.
I’ve thought about that conversation nearly everyday since it happened. I’d never heard the two very distinguishing terms before, and whether that’s due to my nationality or my generation, I’m unsure. Nevertheless, in the last few weeks, I’ve pondered over and over, “Have what?”
If we’re talking about material goods, money, access to resources, and education, sure… I have. In that sense, the majority of first worlders have.
But are those the things that really and truly matter? I think the obvious “Christian” answer is “no,” but when we step back and examine our lives, do we actually believe what we’re saying? Do we delight in material goods, money, access to resources, and education above the Kingdom of God? Are these the things we cling to for security? Are these the things we’re unwilling to give up?
Yes, material possessions can make life much, much, much more easy and comfortable. Still, I firmly believe that they place obstacles and gaps between us and things of a deeper value and meaning. I think this is what Jesus was talking about when he addressed the rich young ruler.
When I look at the life of our ministry partner and his family, I see an overwhelming abundance of joy, gratitude, servanthood, character, faithfulness, strength of spirit, hope, and resilience. I see a lot of praying and depending on God and very little complaining and exasperating—especially about “the small things.”
From this perspective, I pull back, and again, I ask, “Have what?”
Jesus himself said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (If they had microphones in Jesus’s day, this would’ve been an appropriate time to drop one.) Jesus went on to say, “With people [salvation] is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Heidi Baker once said that the poor more naturally understand what it means to be poor in spirit. And in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
From what I’ve seen, the Christians who “have-not” (materially speaking) know how to walk in dependence on God, because there’s no other option. They often times behold the greatest treasure available to to man—an intimate, “I need You,” “I can’t do this without You” kind of relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ.
I love how the Kingdom of God is upside-down and sideways in comparison to the world.
So what’s the take-away? Well, the next time you encounter someone who has “less” than you, consider the fact that they may actually have “more.” Humble yourself and ask God to teach you through the person, situation, country, or culture. I promise, He’ll open your eyes, transform your heart, and renew your mind (see Hebrews 12:2).