You are poorer than you may know

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You are poorer than you may know

September 18, 2012 - Jim Denison, PhD

homeless man sitting on stoop head in arms with all his belongings (Credit: fmalot via

Our median annual household income has fallen for the fourth straight year, back to 1995 levels.  In other words, the typical America is now making as much money as he or she did 17 years ago.  However, costs have risen dramatically over these years.  I did some research: a gallon of gas in 1995 cost $1.09; now it costs $4.13.  The average cost of a new car in 1995 was $15,500; it has doubled to $30,748 today.  The average new home in 1995 cost $113,150; it is now $263,200, which is actually down from a year ago.

In other news, Israel’s prime minister is calling on America to draw a “red line” with Iran before it’s too late.  And our education system continues to struggle: almost 65 percent of those at four-year schools have no degrees within six years, while two million college students are taking remedial courses to study what they should have learned in high school.

Is God blessing America?  Can he?  Jesus gave us the keys to divine blessing in eight familiar statements we call “the Beatitudes.”  The first: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).  “Blessed” translates makarios, a sense of well-being that transcends circumstances.  “Poor” translates ptochia, someone so impoverished he does not know where his next meal is to be found.  To be “poor in spirit” is to recognize our desperate need of God.

Why are such people “blessed”?  Because “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  God’s “kingdom” is defined in the Model Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  God’s kingdom comes wherever his will is done.  When we admit our need of God’s help, we will turn to God as our King as serve in his Kingdom.  And we will be “blessed.”

Does America know our need of God?  Or are we a self-made, self-sufficient people?  God cannot give us what we will not receive, or lead us where we will not go.  If we will not admit that we need our Maker, he will show us that need.  He has permitted terrorists to show us that our defenses are insufficient; he has allowed economic calamity to show us that our finances are fragile.

Are you facing financial, physical, or relational difficulties this morning?  Would God redeem them by showing you how much you need his provision and power?  Zechariah 4:6 is still true: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”  King David could testify: “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God” (Psalm 20:7).  With this result: “They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm” (v. 8).

Does our nation trust our problems to “the name of the Lord”?  When last did you?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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