Inner poverty

Daily Reading for October 2

For Francis, poverty was the key to the loving, Christ-like life. He looked upon money as a kind of drug, addictive and lethal, to be shunned. Even minimal private property was repulsive to him. To own something, Francis believed, was to grasp for a security found only in day-to-day dependence upon God and would likely lead to divisions among people. When his bishop urged him to moderate his lifestyle, Francis said, “My lord, if we had possessions, we would need arms for our protection, for disputes and lawsuits usually arise out of them, and, because of this, love of God and neighbor are greatly impeded. Therefore, we do not want to possess anything in this world.” The only time Francis is recorded as having been angry was when he heard talk of modifying the rule of absolute poverty.

Real poverty is a state of the soul, not an outward circumstance, Francis felt. It must therefore be purely voluntary, an act of love—poverty that is imposed is not an act of love. Only in complete, chosen, inner poverty is freedom found, Francis believed, for it enables people simply to be who and what they are, neither dominating nor dominated. “You could not threaten to starve a man who was ever striving to fast. You could not ruin him and reduce him to beggary, for he was already a beggar,” Chesterton observes.

From God Seekers: Twenty Centuries of Christian Spiritualities by Richard H. Schmidt (Eerdmans, 2008).

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