Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi is rightly known for his famous prayer “Lord, make me an instrument of peace….” He is also known for his poverty lifestyle.

Born the son of a rich Italian trader he squandered his money for pleasure in his youth. Eventually he turned away from the lifestyle of his youth and dedicated himself to a life of poverty. He celebrated poverty and made it the default for him and the order he founded. Francis’ life had and still has a huge influence on western societies.

As good as it is to stand up against misuse, greed and other temptations that craving for money brings, one wonders if life in poverty should be celebrated as a standard to live by. One wonders as well if the conclusion which Francis drew from his faith for his lifestyle is correct. Considering that this world didn’t come into existence by itself but by a creator, one principle is clear to see in all creation: The principle of abundance! There are 4 million species of flowers, 60,000 tree species, 20,000 different species of bees and more than 1,000 distinct sheep breeds in the world - the list could go on and on. Sure, mankind often reduces this abundance but the way this world was created was with a provision for abundance in everything.

So how can the one who created everything in abundance require from his creatures to live in absolute poverty? This doesn’t make sense. Even today you can hear people, in particular people from very poor countries, saying that God would put poverty on them as a trial in order to honor them with wealth in the life after. This kind of thinking covers the fact that poverty usually has its root in wrong decisions made by mankind, corruption, wrong ways of thinking, wrong worldviews, etc. All these things are keeping people and their societies away from flourishing. Therefore poverty should not be idealized or glorified when the latter is simply the result of bad choices.

The same one who created this world and everything in it in abundance has created principles on how to live. When people are applying these principles in their lives and their societies, abundance will be the result not poverty – and this is even true whether one believes in a God or not.