St. Francis de Sales devoted three chapters of the Introduction to the Devout Life to explaining the virtue of poverty.
He wrote: “`Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God;’ and if so, woe to the rich in spirit, for theirs must be the bitterness of hell. By rich in spirit I mean him whose riches engross his mind, or whose mind is buried in his riches. He is poor in spirit whose heart is not filled with the love of riches, whose mind is not set upon them.”
Poverty in riches
Regarding material possessions, St. Francis de Sales wrote, “My child, our possessions are not ours. God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His service, and so doing we shall please Him.
“And this we must do more earnestly than worldly men, for they look carefully after their property out of self-love, and we must work for the love of God.”
The saint pointed out, “There is a wide difference between having poison and being poisoned.” A Christian who uses material things with the spirit of detachment would not be harmed by the possession of wealth.
Inordinate attachment to wealth harms the soul. St. John of the Cross wrote, “It is not the things of this world that either occupy the soul or cause it harm, since they enter it not, but rather the will and desire for them, for it is these that dwell within it.”
Reason and faith tell us that wealth is not an end, but a means given us by God to provide for our needs and those of our neighbour. Moreover, riches pass away with time; we cannot take them along with us to the next world.
Charity and trust
Christ Himself joined the exercise of charity to that of poverty by saying, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor” (Mt 19:21).
Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen commented, “If we detach our hearts from earthly goods, the spirit of poverty will make us generous toward the needy.”
The most effective way of detaching ourselves from riches is to invest our wealth in the bank of heaven by giving generously to the poor and to good works.
Christ also joined the exercise of poverty to that of trust in divine Providence. He said, “You cannot be the slave both of God and of money. That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing!”
“So do not worry; do not say, ‘What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?’ It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on His kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well” (Mt 6:24-33).
Father Gabriel explained, “The spirit of poverty will not be lasting and profound unless it is based on confidence in divine Providence. It is only when we trust in God and in His word, which will never fail, that we shall have the courage to put aside all excessive preoccupation with temporal affairs.”
“Jesus does not wish the solicitude which would engulf us entirely in temporal affairs; this would indicate not only an excessive attachment to earthly things, but also a lack of confidence in divine Providence.”
We should seek security in God and not in wealth.
基督又把神貧與信賴天主照顧相連。祂說：「你們不能事奉天主而又事奉錢財。為此，我告訴你們：不要為你們的生命憂慮吃什麼，或喝什麼；也不要為你們的身體憂慮穿什麼。難道生命不是貴於食物，身體不是貴於衣服嗎？…… 所以，你們不要憂慮說：我們吃什麼、喝什麼、穿什麼？因為這一切都是外邦人所尋求的；你們的天父原曉得你們需要這一切。你們先尋求天主的國和它的義德，這一切自會加給你們。（瑪竇福音6:24-25, 31-33）」