Honest Confessions About Being Poor

Let’s have a chat, middle-class America.

Being poor is rough. Wondering how you’re going to pay the bills is the least-fun experience ever. Going through a season of uncertainty is tiring with all the anxiety and stress that wages war on your mind.

But you know what we hate more than being broke?

Being needy.

It’s okay to sometimes admit being “middle-class” and not being able to afford “luxuries.”

But being needy? Asking for help? Receiving help?

That’s out of the question.

Because then I’d have to admit I’m not self-sufficient. Run the risk of being thought of as a failure, that maybe I’m a fully-functioning adult who can’t even afford to pay the bills, much less go out and spend time with friends and community.

So what do we do? We don’t ask for help. Yet at the same time we don’t ever say “no.”

How does this pan out in our lives? Here’s where I think this death-trap leads:

Credit cardWe find another un-related party to pay for us. 

Why are credit cards and loans and payment plans so attractive? We are able to receive help from someone who doesn’t know us and is completely removed from our lives. We’re able to keep up the appearance and expectation of the life we want to live in front of the people we want to be respected by.

Virtual financial help gives us a false sense of security. I’ve never heard a person stand up in a community gathering or Wednesday night prayer service and vulnerably say, “I don’t know if I can afford gas to make it until my next paycheck.” But that same person might go to a gas company and apply for a rewards credit card.

Better than admit I can’t make it on my own.

When we find our own “resources” instead of helping each other, then we become too good to receive help and further ingrain this shame culture, that somehow I’m not valuable if I can’t live the life I think I’m supposed to live.

And feeling shamed leads to the next point:

We isolate ourselves from others.

If I can’t keep up, if I can’t afford to eat at the places everyone else eats at, if I can’t have a home that I expect to have in order to invite people over, then I might as well not spend time with people at all.

I know. I’m with you. I get it, people.

This has been hands-down the most difficult year in my life. Financially, it’s seemed near crushing at times. And I’m like, “Geez, when will this ever end?!”

And in those dark hours I had to face my fears.

“Face your fears” is such a cliche phrase and I’ve wondered if it actually meant anything.

Now I know it means that these fears lurk in the deep recesses of your heart, and you kinda know they’re there, but you work hard to keep ahead so that you never have to face them and admit you have weaknesses.

Until everything is taken away.

And then you realize that stripped down you are a whole lot more unstable than you ever thought.

When everything was gone, when last summer I lost all my work and a job offer in a single moment, I was frightened beyond anything I could imagine.

In that moment and the days to follow, I made the difficult decision to work through it instead of finding a quick healing balm to surpress the pain. Credit cards and bank loans are easy compared to reading your own Fear statement.

Now before you think about how epically brave this was, keep reading.

Though I found I was fine with not having much, I quickly discovered another issue.

The Real Fear.

Here it is.

I didn’t want to be needy.

I was fine with living simply. I just didn’t want to lose control.

And now the control was gone. I couldn’t hide any longer. And even if I tried, it wouldn’t have worked very long because the situation didn’t really change and hasn’t really yet.

So here I am, thinking now that maybe I’m supposed to learn something from this instead of just fixing the problem. Maybe I’m supposed to change. Maybe these things make you stronger because you have to accept your weaknesses in order to be stronger. Weird how that work, huh?

So thus the epiphany moment. And as I’ve been thinking big picture about this now, here’s some positive things I’ve learned this year about being broke.

Your pride barrier is lowered, thus you become more humble.

There’s nothing more humbling than being broke, because then you realize that maybe my world doesn’t revolve around me and my bank account. Maybe I’m not defined by my income.

When you become more humble, you are more relatable and empathetic. 

Humility pushes you to see the world through other people’s eyes. If you can do that, if you become a truly empathetic individual, then you have huge capacity to relate in relationships, which makes you a better person and contributor to your community.

When you don’t have much, you are free, thus you have power. 

When we give our lives over to “getting,” getting a car, getting more furniture, getting a bigger house, getting a bigger paycheck, then you also get slavery. It’s sad to see so many people that are owned by possessions.

When you don’t have much? Then you’re free. Free to give the power to things that last for a lifetime and eternity.

If you owe, you don’t have power. Someone else does. 

The moment you let someone else pay for you, you have removed power from yourself and given it to another. Isn’t crazy how we choose to give power to credit companies who could care less about us? If you must borrow, then at least borrow from someone who cares about you.

Having little is the garden that creativity and innovation grows in. 

Have you seen someone with loads of money and options? They typically aren’t very creative. Other people think for them because they don’t have to think. They have money now.

Sometimes we exchange power in thought for power in money. That’s a dire mistake.

Being poor is a mindset. 

You can choose to focus all your attention inwardly and be consumed with your lack of resources and how that affects your life.

OR you can choose to accept where your current situation, and then focus your attention outward to the opportunity you have through your current situation.

I may have next to nothing, but I am wealthy in every way. Because I’ve learned to measure wealth in character, in love, in relationships.

Never let anyone tell you you’re less than your wealth in character, love and relationships, that somehow you are defined by your money, possessions, lifestyle, restaurant choice, education, or job.

Because they are the poor ones. And they will never know the riches that are experienced in the things in life that don’t have price tags on it.

Use Your Dishwasher

I’ve now lived in my cozy little townhouse for a year and a half now. And for that first year I was very proud of one fact.

I never used my dishwasher.

Yep, it was the old-fashioned scrub-with-your-bare-hands, drip-and-dry-in-the-dish-rack method.

You see, when you start living on your own, your living expenses coming into stark reality as you realize that you have very little money to cover all these ridiculous expenses you have now to pay. And when it came to my house and utility bills, I eyed every little detail like a hawk. It became like this sick version of a Price Is Right game.

The bathroom light. the bathroom fan. the bedside lamp. the heat. the air. the shower water. the sink water. the outside light. the oven.

and then the dishwasher. It didn’t even stand a chance. If I could hand-wash my dishes for free, why would I PAY to use the dishwasher??!!

Unfortunately, I had overlooked one really important detail. In reality, it was easy to toss out the dishwasher because I never really needed to use my dishwasher. All my meals could easily be cleaned up with a quick, 3 minute hand-wash. Because all my meals were made for 1 person.

Which means that I never made meals for more than 1 person. which means no one ever ate at my house. which means I probably prized my low water bill above my community.


6-7 months ago I clearly remember telling someone that I never used my dishwasher. And then the Spirit of God was like, “Hey, you really need to start using your dishwasher.”

And then he continued to clarify.

Open your door. Turn on the lights. Crank up the air conditioning. Buy some good food. Make a great meal. Get a lot of dishes dirty. Let dirty shoes walk over your clean floors. Stay up past your bedtime for a good conversation.

and then when it’s all said and done, when the party’s over, when the last guest has left,

use your dishwasher.

You see, it took some time for me to realize that while everything I have is to be managed well, part of that also means what I have is to be given away. These words from 2 Corinthians 9 have rocked my world again and again in the past few months:

A giving man throws caution to the wind, giving to the needy in reckless abandon. And so God gives you something you can then give away, which grows into full-formed lives, robust in God, wealthy in every way, so that you can be generous in every way.

So opening my home and allowing my food bill, water bill, utility bill and who-knows-what-else bill to increase can actually be this amazing act of trust and worship, that I’m going to recklessly give trusting that God’s going to take care of me and keep giving me enough so that I can provide for myself and others.

And you know what? It’s pretty cool when you see God increase your standard of living as you have already increased your level of giving. He just likes to bless his kids like that.

So manage your house well. But remember that your dishwasher’s purpose may not simply be to quickly clean up your life, but may also be an tool to help you love and give well to your community.



Just had a personal conversation with myself. Whatever it’s worth, I hope you see the Gospel and not me cause I can’t come up with thoughts about and love for Jesus on my own. Totally not my default


So let’s revisit that tweet from a few weeks ago:

Broke. Jobless. Homeless. Single. #anotherwaytobelikeJesus

But am I limiting how my life can ”be like Jesus?” What if in 5, 10, even 30 years I tweet “Rich. Dream job. Beautiful home. Married with children”, could my hashtag still be #anotherwaytobelikeJesus ?

Yes. Because it was never about those things in the first place.

“I know how to be brought low and how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Phil 4:12

Why do you focus so much on the objects or circumstances to determine God’s character or affection for you? He said, “I AM” and that is enough. He overwhelms me in love because that’s just who He is. So in the moments of overwhelming financial pressures, I am overwhelmed by God’s love in blessing me. In the moments of overwhelming financial provision, I am overwhelmed by God’s love in blessing me.

During graduation there were many testimonies given that had a common thread. Over and over I heard testimonies like this: “I didn’t know how I’d make it through school, but God abundantly blessed me and I am now graduating debt free.” “I want to thank God for blessing me with money to come back each semester.” “I struggled each semester getting money to pay my bill, and now that I’m graduating I have to future bills to pay. God is so good.

Though I didn’t get to share a testimony, I was tempted to go up to the microphone as I walked past and say, “I just want to thank God for allowing me to graduate with thousands of dollars in debt because it’s just another opportunity to grow in faith and love for Him as I sweat for years to come to pay it off. This is how he will make His name and Gospel famous in my life.”

ALL things are blessings from God. If I start thinking otherwise, like in blessings verses non-blessings, then I get into this weighted balance system where I’m weighing the differences of blessings and non-blessings in my life and hoping that God gives me more blessings so that I’ll be happy and joyful and so that I can bless God openly more because I have more blessings than non-blessings, because who would actually believe that non-blessings are worth praising God about. Yet I fall into this “money trap” so often; I mean, my praise to God before others reflect that. When did God giving me money equate with his goodness? Is life really about money? Is God really all about money? Isn’t God really all about Himself? His glory? His Kingdom?

You’ve have missed the point! It’s about God! It’s about the Gospel! Stop rating your life on balanced scales and go to the cross. “When they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” II Cor 10:12. If God gives me money, I don’t thank God for money; I thank God for God. If God takes away money, I don’t plead to God for money; I plead to God for God.

And just because I have next to nothing as far as earthly possessions does not mean that I’m able be more like Jesus than the one that has an abundance of possessions.  And the same vice versa. Which, by the way, leads into why the Body of Christ is so important. All other Christians have been given different gifts, connections, resources, and realms of influence. You cannot further the Gospel on our own. In Christ, you link arms with other Christians and work together to make God’s name famous to the world. “…so that through the Church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known…”(Eph 3:10) Set aside labels, set aside comfort zones, get over your reputation (you’re not that important anyway), and focus on the Gospel. Know it, study it, fall in love with it.

Want to waste your life? Keep thinking about it, analyzing it, planning, figuring it out, because by the time you’re where you think it should be “all-together,” you will probably have just missed out and wasted it all. You are not God—quit acting like it, thinking like it and giving testimonies like it. And if people disagree with you, stop going to books and opinions and twitter. Go to the Gospel. Have an answer that points back to the Gospel.

Which reminds me—you seem to have issues and slight differentiations on the views of others, especially Christians. Yes, it’s good to think critically and to understand what you believe. But what’s the use of focusing on that person so much? Again, back to the comparing problem. Look for Jesus in everything, and even if it’s just a hint, thank God that the Gospel is present in that person’s life and see how you both can take a step together towards loving God more. And if there is sin or wrong motives, why does it make you so angry? Seems I’ve read a similar story in John 8—yep, the Pharisees were pretty ticked at a woman’s immoral sin. Self-righteousness. That’s what makes me annoyed with others and their “wrong representation.” Humility would see myself as a much worse sinner than they and approach them in humility, speaking words of truth yet grace. Yeah, I can’t do that- but in Christ I can.

I’m glad for time to think through these things. I think often Satan wants me to be so busy that I don’t have time, energy or alertness to listen to the Spirit’s voice. Striving in tasks but not loving the Savior makes for a miserable life.

Jesus, I thank you for all things. They are all blessings. All things do work together for good, and that good is that I would be conformed to your image, not that I’d have material or circumstantial benefits. Change my thinking and my whole system of life. Thank you that where I am now is the best way that I can look like Jesus. And as my circumstances and stage of life change, may my constant hashtag be #anotherwaytobelikeJesus