The community of God is begun by a woman or man, alone in faith, committed to the burden and shame of poverty, in complete dependence on God. They have desperately sought God and are given from the mouth of God a work to do. Their work is not professional, but an act of love for love, for God’s work is always founded on love.
It may be working for the poor, it may be raising children through difficult circumstances, it may be assisting the disabled or elderly, it may be offering compassion and a listening ear to those who are lonely, it may be healing the sick, it may be supporting the dying… there are unlimited lifestyles of love. But it is always among those who have been rejected and so have an empty hole which only love can fill.
This work doesn’t pay well. They may not gain much personal reward at all, but are sometimes mocked or hated because of the work of love. Their bodies deteriorate, they can’t pay their bills, they struggle with depression. Many people look at the cost of the work and honestly say, “You need to find a different line of work.”
They work not for reward but because they are called. They work because it is an honor to work for the King of the universe, and because love is the most noble of all tasks. At times the work is head, but they trust that it is worth it for the sake of the world and they trust that it will be worth it for them. Eventually.
This is the life of faith.
These are among the most lonely of people, and they surround themselves with the lonely, the outcasts of society. Yet this ragtag group have something that the society around them doesn’t value—they have dependence.
At first they depend on the central figure of faith who seems to have such abundance of love that it stretches the boundary of humanity. Around this saint there is healing. The hungry are fed. The depressed find joy. The grieving find encouragement.
As the central personage enters deeper into their personal poverty, being eaten by sickness or depression, love flowers in the Spirit of the community. It isn’t just one Lover, but a group and finally a multitude of lovers, all dependent on each other for support, for food, for housing, for relief, for restoration, for welcome.
Poverty together is not poverty. To be truly poor is to be in community with the poor and in that community poverty melts away like butter in a campfire. To be poor is to see the poorer, and to share what little one has with the needy. It is the poor who see the hungry and give their food. It is the poor who see the naked and give them an extra coat. It is the poor who see the homeless and give them their last inch of space in their tent. For the foundational moral truth of poverty is to be the one who sees, and the one who shares.
Poverty of spirit embraces the poverty of one’s community and gives what little one has into that poverty in the hopes that there is enough for all. Individual poverty is lessened by sharing with community. A single stick is too poor to carry the weight of a human being. But a multitude of sticks can carry a fully grown human over a river. Even so, an individual poor person is helpless. A group of poor people can withstand a great burden.
This is the community of God. It is the community of mercy, the community of sacrifice, the community of fellowship. The community of God is the community that takes joy in depending on one another, as well as depending on the God who gives them all.
A wealthy person may also enter into this community and take part in the joy, but only if they give all. For no one is really a part of this community unless they are dependent on each other and dependent on God. And that can only happen when the crutches of power, of riches, of income, of importance is all cast aside into that black hole of deep poverty.
This is the community of Jesus who cast aside all his riches, becoming poor, so that we might all participate in His wealth. His dependence becomes our participation in the fulfilling, joyful community of dependence.