Monday, May 01, 2006

Testimony #009

The CEO has been teaching me faith in various ways most of my life. But in more specific ways within the last 3 years. And more specifically the last 18 months. And even more specifically the last 3 months.

To date, I have never had a bill that I could not pay. Nor has any of these bills ever been paid late.

On more than one occasion, I have had just enough money to my name to pay a bill that is sitting on my desk. But I would be tempted to refrain from paying until the CEO brings more provision from somewhere. The CEO would send messages saying: You have the money, jackass. Pay the bill. Well, the CEO didn't actually say jackass. That's my own dramatization. I'd pay the bill. Then soon after, more provision would come.

Last week we had just enough to pay our mortgage. Afterward our bank account would be sitting on empty. I knew our tax "refund" check should be coming, but I've been waiting almost 6 weeks for it already.

I mailed the mortgage check Saturday. Broke Sunday. Tax "refund" arrives Monday.

CEO - your ways are perfect and beyond me. Thank you.


Will Spina said...

Isaiah 38:19 (ESV)
The living, the living, he thanks you,
as I do this day;
the father makes known to the children
your faithfulness.

Matthew said...


Sorry to start the morning all obnoxious, but if the CEO is in the business of handing out magic checks, I just have to wonder why they arrive for you and not for ... say ... the 20,000 people who die of hunger every day.

If that contrast doesn't jar you, you can probably continue to suggest that the CEO hurries the mail along or finds you parking places. But if it bothers you the same way it bothers me, you might try a slightly different testimony: "CEO, I rejoice in being able to pay my bills. Please care for those who aren't so lucky."

Agent B said...

Matthew - thanks for stopping by and for your input.

I was unaware that the CEO was in the business of sending magic checks.

I believe he listens and replies to those who ask and believe.

Maybe those 20,000 haven't asked. Or maybe others (or me, as you imply) haven't asked for them.

I can only do what the CEO tells me to do. He did not tell me to take on the massive job of 20,000 during the moment he told me to "pay the bill (jackass)". He did however tell me to take on the few in my daily path, which those testimonies are written about here as well. When the 20,000 people prayer gets answered, I'll post here and let you know.

My god meets my needs because I ask him and believe. It's not beyond him to give me a parking place either. But I usually park in the back so I can leave quick. The spaces are plentiful in the back.

I believe that by posting this testimony, I AM rejoicing in being able to pay my bills. My apollogies for not wording it differently.

Keep in touch.

Matthew said...

Sorry if I was unclear - I didn't mean to imply that you should be expected to solve poverty with your rent check. And I didn't mean to imply that you don't care about hungry people.

But anyone who claims that the CEO steps in to personally provide Americans with parking spaces and rent money (on just the right day!), should also be able to explain why the CEO has neglected to feed the 20,000 people who starved to death that day. You made an attempt to do that -- suggesting that they didn't pray about it, or that I didn't pray about it -- but frankly, that argument sucks. Because I do pray about it.

Eventually, you have to face up to the fact that even when we ask and believe, sometimes the CEO doesn't answer. (And shouldn't a good CEO feed starving infants before finding parking spaces, even if the infants didn't ask?)

(refer to: Job)
(refer to: Habakkuk)
(refer to: The Tower of Siloam)
(refer to: Christians in the Coliseum)
(refer to: The Holocaust)
(refer to: Abused Children)
(refer to: The Real World)

So in light of the real world, I was just suggesting that you could find joy in receiving your rent check, while also being a little more conservative in describing coincidences. Because we don't really know what things the CEO causes, and what things just happen. Unless the CEO causes everything. And if that's the case, please ask her to quit crushing people with earthquakes, and mutilating children in Sudan.

Agent B said...

sometimes the CEO doesn't answer

while also being a little more conservative in describing coincidences

Both of these statements are faithless bullshit.

I don't ask for trivial things like parking spaces.

And I sure as hell don't believe in coincidences. That's what people in my old coc days suggested and they were wrong.

Like the source you mentioned, Job, who am I (or you) to suggest to the Lord when and how a prayer is answered.

Money came in after I was obedient in a personal instruction (pay the bill). Coincidence. Not to me.

Obi-Wan and I prayed for his $9000 medical bill. Then I discovered it was only $900. Coincidence? Maybe, but who am I to question the CEO. It was an answer to me.

I will rejoice in the trivial and small since that's what's been given to me. When I move a mountain, I'll rejoice then too.

Your blog proudly states your "liberal". Fine. No harm here.

But most every self proclaimed liberal I've ever known refuses to be happy with the small. They want more. (Why pray for your rent when there's starving kids?).

The CEO is not making those kids starve.

Don't assume I want people to starve just because I rejoice in the small.

Mike said...

Hi, I just want to jump in here on this. I think you are both making some interesting points, from different perspectives and different experiences. And I have personally felt the same things and thought the same thoughts and (let me concede a little presumption here) I have found myself in similar situations.

I have been in that place were, like B, I could honestly say that God has provided for my every need and even many desires. For the last few years I find myself on the other side of the arguement. Namely, and forgive the presumption Matthew, I have a hard time giving thanks to God for anything in light of so much suffering and hardship that I see in my world.

I don't presume to know the mind of God, and I don't think either of you (B and Matthew) do either. I think we have to live in a tension, a cognitive disonence. Yes God does indeed provide for some, while not (seemingly) to provide for others. Jesus addressed this when he scolded the disciples who thought that they were so favored of God. He referenced a tower that collapsed and killed some folks and asked the bluntly if they thought some how that they were more righteous, or blessed, or loved or provided for than those that were killed. He never gave a reason for the collapse. Yet he continually pointed out that God is in control of the universe and that he does provide for us.

I think the had thing for us is that we think we could run the universe better. I often find myself thinking that "If I were God no one would suffer. No one would go hungry. Etc." But that is the thing. I am not God.

Matthew you wrote,

"But anyone who claims that the CEO steps in to personally provide Americans with parking spaces and rent money (on just the right day!), should also be able to explain why the CEO has neglected to feed the 20,000 people who starved to death that day."

To that I ask why? why must B or anyone else who sees the devine hand behind the scenes have to, or be able to explain why God does anything? I think we are making ourselves out to be little gods when we think we can judge God.

If there is a God then surely he or she knows more about what he or she is doing than any one of us. We can't even come up with a system of economics and government that can care for the poor and end suffering in our own back yards. who are we to presume that we can judge God?

B reads his bible and it says that all good things come from the hand of God. He looks at his experience and sees his needs provided for and he is obedient and gives thanks. what is so wrong with that?

You made an attempt to do that -- suggesting that they didn't pray about it, or that I didn't pray about it -- but frankly, that argument sucks. Because I do pray about it.

Mike said...

Matthew, I have great simpathy for what you are saying here. I think American Christians think they are the chosen nation and that God is always on our side. When quite often we are fighting against God and the Kingdom. I too bristle when I read B's testimonies. I think, "ok, but what about me, or what about some of the homeless folks I know, or my family members who are suffering and I can't do anything about it? What about them? do they not pray hard enough? do i not pray hard enough? does God not love them or me?"

I don't know the answers to those questions.

But I do know that B is simply testifying to his own experience and his interpretation of that experience.

I have no right to judge him for that.

I wonder, Matthew, if like me, this kind of thing makes you a little angry? It makes me angry. And I know why. I often find myself arguing with other believers about this stuff. I will do as you have done and ask questions like, "what about the 20,000 people who starved to death today? where was God for them? what about the tsunami victims? ON CHRISTIMAS FOR CHRIST SAKE! WHAT THE F*** GOD?"

But really, and this is just me, it is more about me and my experience and my perception that God isn't taking care of my wants and needs. It is about my disapointments and frustrations with how I think God is governing the universe imediately surrounding me. I make those arguments because I don't want to face my own disapointment with God.

Then I read B's stories and those of others and I have to think back to times when I have known that God had provided and yeah, I could call them coincidences, but faith doesn't have room for coincidence. It is then that my soul calms and I can try to look honestly at my life and try to see if maybe the places I am disapointed are really just parts of the larger story and I don't know how things will work out and why bad things happen.

To get personal, and I don't like to do this, but...

When I was younger my mom was going through hell. My dad had thrown her out and she was suicidal. I found her at home three times near death. Three times I took her to the hospital. three times I took her screaming and cussing at me into the mental ward. I almost quit school and moved back home just so I could watch over her day and night. I called her in the morning and at night just to make sure she was still alive. I didn't go out with friends much because I was afraid something would happen and I would miss the call and not be able to go and save her again. I didn't date cause I was consumed with my moms troubles. My grades suffered, I didn't eat much and when I slept I fell asleep with fear for her and woke thinking about her. Every waking momment I prayed for God to "do something."

What did God do?

Not a damn thing. Not based on the criteria I think you are judging things by (forgive my presumption - again). But I have come to see things differently. I believe even more now that God is in total control and that he/she knows what is best. sometimes that means pain and suffering.

You talk about American christians needing to explain why God provides for them a parking space while others starve to death. I think you need to go farther. I think we all need to ask why we think God should provide us with anything; rain, sun, air, life. None of us deserve it. What we deserve is to let us have what we want and that is to completely fuck this world up with polution and violence and inheret that death. I think we need to ask why American Christians think suffering is a bad thing. For the last three saturdays I have been harassed by hari chrisnas. they seem cool at first but then they loose me when they talk about suffering being bad. I just can't stomach that. maybe we need suffering.

now, I don't mean to come off as saying that those "20000" you speak of who starved today should see that as a good thing. I can't speak for them. I don't know them. I suspect you don't either. I know me. And I know that when all that shit was happening with my mom I just gave up on God. But then, after time, I was able to see that there was purpose for it. My mom needed to go through that shit, and I needed to endure it with her.

I can't point to one thing and say "that, that right there is the 'good' that came of that." I think that is reductionist, oversimplification bull shit.

But I can say that deep down I am changed and so is she.

One last thing. When we talk about suffering and God and evil and all that, what is called theodocy, I think we reach too far - past where our limited experience and finite intellegence can take us, when we go from talking about personal experience to suffering in general.

I don't know about you, but I have served and counciled many folks who have suffered horrible things. from domestic abuse to illness and even someone who experienced genocide. Every single one of those folks, individuals, not generic "20000", could honestly say that there was purpose in it.

those are just my rambling thoughts.

agent Wife said...

I really appreciate all the comments on all sides of this argument. Very thought provoking. At this point, I would like to add another perspective to this exact situation in the agent home. Agent B mentioned how the CEO has been showing him to pay when the money is there instead of holding out for something more to come in and provide a sort of cushion for us. I believe the bigger issue here is control vs faith. We have to believe that the CEO will still provide when there is zip and I think this is what he/she is teaching us. It says in the book that without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb.11:6). I think it always comes down to where my heart is. I agree with the comments on suffering too. Our biggest prayer has been get us out of this waiting time, give us real income, even move us, or give us some kind of big provision. But the CEO prefers to just give us a little manna each day as we wander in this wilderness time.

I'm not saying either that this is all about me/us. I know the CEO cares about the 20 000 who starved, the book is littered with instances where the CEO sent messengers to foreign nations trying to show them ways to come out of their imminent troubles because he cares about them, He also went to individuals. He also did things I can not explain. There has always been suffering, since sin, I don't know why them and not me, but I am thankful. Thankful it's not me, thankful when I can do something to relieve their pain, thankful that I'm not in charge (I'm sure it would be much worse) and by faith I am thankful that the CEO does know what he/she is doing. I can't explain it, it's just faith, and a myriad of personal experiences with him to sustain my faith- like this check. We're not living high because of one measly check, but it was like a cup of cold water in a hot desert and sometimes that reaffirming touch is more valuable than a castle filled with riches.

I do believe wholeheartedly that if someone truly seeks out the CEO, he will reveal himself to that person and that person will be rewarded eternally. And at that point, all the suffering the person went through this side of heaven will seem as nothing, for the simple joy of being with a good CEO, no matter how wacky things seem from this end.

Pastor Phil said...

Wow, this is a rockin' discussion point. Matthew, your initial post was so cool, yet I understand the response from Agent B, whose simple daily faith I would like to emulate.

I love real discussion, and this was happening here.

I too wonder about the 20,000, and the tsunami on Christmas, but all I can do is live for Christ today. Hopefully I can still praise Him if my world gets rocked, and like Job not charge God falsely.

Matthew said...

Hi again, all. Thanks for your comments, Agent wife. And it's good to hear your voice again, Mike ... thanks for sharing your stories, and for fleshing out my tower of Siloam reference. =)

I apologize for having allowed this to go so far beyond the original intents of my comment. I really meant it to be a pinch on the butt and it seems to have turned out to be a smack in the face. Sorry.

I'll just try to wrap up my comments by restating and summarizing my opinions.

1. I believe the CEO does indeed work in the world.

2. I do not believe that the CEO has chosen to be in "total control" of the world in the sense that the CEO causes every event. Some things just happen, and are not the direct result of actions by the CEO. Maybe these things are good, and when they are, that's nice. Maybe they're bad, and then the CEO works in them or around them to produce good. But the events themselves were not necessarily caused by the CEO, and may therefore be utterly without purpose. Devastating earthquakes are a good example.

3. Because of 1 and 2, I believe it's a bit presumptuous for us to point at specific events and say, "The CEO did that". Better to give thanks to the CEO for everything that is good, without speculating as to whether, in this particular instance, she stepped in and broke the laws of physics on our behalf.

4. Regardless of whether my opinions are accurate, I don't think they should be called "faithless bullshit". If I ask the CEO to feed the hungry, and they die, then that prayer simply went unanswered. And that particular prayer can never be answered, because the 20,000 people I prayed for are dead.

But there is nothing "faithless" about those observations. Recall that Job is the hero of his book ... in the end, he is the only character who is affirmed by God. So faith is not closing my eyes to the plain facts. Faith is continuing to hope that things will be different when I ask again tomorrow.

5. In making these observations, I did not mean to impugn Agent B in any way. From what I've read, I think he has the highest regard for the people around him, and I certainly do not think that his rejoicing in the small suggests that he wants children to starve. I simply meant to suggest that the world might be a better place if people were a little more reluctant to attribute events to the direct action of the CEO.

6. People can have other opinions and still be good Christians.

There's a lot more I'd like to say about the other comments, but I should probably just leave it at that.

Mike said...

Matthew, thanks for clarifying your comments.

I know what it is like to try a "pinch" and end up giving a smack.

that is the downside of words on a page. there are no nonverbals.

and you are correct that people can have other opinions and still be good christians.

i hope none of the other comments implied other wise.

Agent B said...

I stick by my bullshit comment. Not to imply that you have no faith.

But because I believe the CEO does answer. It's rarely in the way we want or expect it. Sometimes it's silence that seems eternal.

And because I don't believe the tax check arriving after I was obedient was a coincidence. I just don't.

But I wrote "BS" out of anger and I shouldn't slap you back. I'm sorry.

Job - I know this book quite well. I have read it often in the last 3.5 years. I don't for a moment think my experiences/sufferings are comparable to Jobs or tsunami victims families. But I can relate somewhat.

Thanks again for stopping by. It's nice to have a real discussion on the agent b files. And to think people actually visit here and read...

miller said...

i wonder if there were starving people around when Job was being blessed?

were there starving people around when David was being blessed?

were there starving people around when Solomon was being blessed?

at some point we have to get down off our intellectual high horse and say, we don't understand...

but we believe that in all things God works for the good of those that love him.


miller said...

i've been thinking about this. maybe the reason we can't accept God's blessing in the little things is because we don't really believe we deserve it.

how can we reconcile our God's action in our comfortable lives when there are so many people who need it far worse than we do?

we can't because it is beyond our own sense of justice.

we never stop to think that there are those among the suffering who are experiencing God's blessing.

nor do we remember the fact that we are reaping the blessing of a long heritage of faithfulness to God... many who suffer are reaping the consequences of generations of Godlessness! that sounds callous and is absolutely anti-PC... but then so is Jesus.

perhaps the suffering of these is intended to prepare their hearts to recieve the truth of Jesus Christ... and that is apparently happening all across the 2/3 world.

just my thoughts

Agent Wife said...

I like what "me" said about justice. We just studied this among friends and were a little shocked that justice means putting things right, not getting revenge, or what is due us, but really putting things right as in garden of Eden right, harmony, grace, peace, love... right. One of agent B's favorite shows is Criminal minds. One night I think an extremely well worded answer was given for a girl who wanted to know if God is vengeful. The answer pointed to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina saying that some saw it as the judgement of God on New Orleans and area, others saw God's mercy in it as it could have been much worse. Then it was stated: "I guess it depends on if you are feeling guilty or not". Often, even in devastation, we can find bth judgement and mercy. We had a friend going through personal hell and he kept saying God was after him. He had a lot of guilt about the way He was living. I've met other people going through personal hells who keep seeing good in their impossible circumstances. Somehow, they see a bigger picture and are even encouraged by little things.

Mike Exum said...

I've gotta say that Matthew's opening "pinch/slap" verbalized something very close to questions I was having too. I am glad to see this chewed on in just the way it has been thus far because it really was not gelling with me either.

However, ME said something in his second comment that piques my curiosity: "we never stop to think that there are those among the suffering that are experiencing God's blessing" I am thinking of "consider it all joy, my bro's when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance" (James 1:2). Apparently the endurance is a blessing that comes from suffering, and should be counted as a joy. That is either wise or sick. And since everyone in this conversation seems to want to go with what the Bible says, I'm betting we will all call it wise.

I also think of Jesus' suffering. There is blessing in that for us all. However, we rarely, if ever (as ME seems to be demonstrating) count that as blessing. So, perhaps the 20,000 Matthew brings up are being blessed? I don't know. I still don't think that is something to aim for, whether there is blessing in it or not. That is not the garden of Eden kind of put to rights Agent Wife seems to be talking about.

I did not speak up with Matthew's critical analysis of B's comment as he did, but I was thinking in similar ways. At least I was questioning it along similar lines. I thought it sounded trivial. But then again, I know that B is really risking himself in God's hands in very unAmerican ways. I think God is honoring that. I do not want to diss it. So I will not call them "magic checks." But I think there is another side to the whole notion B raised that was not brought up until Matthew spoke up. So I am glad he did.

But I think ME has brought up something new too. It is not the other side that Matthew voiced, but a whole other realm. Blessing amid trials/suffering. We never seem to go there -not really. What if the check had not come? Is that really just an unanswered prayer? Jesus prayed, "Father if there is another way... let this cup pass." The prayer was not unheard or unanswered. And the world was blessed with NEW CREATION - a starting again - in the very negative answer God gave in abandoning His son to the beasts. There's a tough thought to chew on.

Thanks to Matthew and to ME for the thoughts. And to all who have chewed on it here. It has been good for me.

Many blessings...

Mike Exum said...

Sorry to be so disjointed. I am at work just now...

I am thinking a new thought in connection, once again, to ME and Agent Wife's comments. I am thinking of the final thoughts in "Evangelical Gigolo" from the Wittenberg Door where the thought ends thus: In the world, everyone wants to play the role of the wolf; no one wants to play the sheep. But the world cannot go on without this sacrifice.

I am thinking that the rich, the haves, those in plenty are there because of the poor. There is only so much wealth to go around, in the capitalist system - a scarcity. Thus the goal is to hoard wealth. This is not the way it works in the Kingdom of God (better translated the Rule of God). In the Kingdom, sharing is the name of the game. (not to be confused with godless communism, this is a God-ful communism).

If I had a globe and could spin it around until we found the tiny square called Kansas, I would tell you that KS has the physical capacity to feed every man, woman, and child on earth. The only reason why KS does not do that is because of hoarders between those KS fields and so many hungry people. Under the Rule of God, KS is capable without any kind of miraculous loaves & fishes. Imagine including the rest of the planet in that abundance! The only hitch is that we would all -world-wide - have to cooperate at an unprecedented level of loving and sharing. But I think the world, under that Rule, will produce more wealth for everyone than can possibly be imagined.

So, since we live in a capitalist, or socialist, or every other kind of thiefist system rather than the Rule of God, the hoarders are blessed by those who do without. "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God..." (Luke 6:20).

God is working through the poor to bless the world, not unlike He blesses the world through Jesus' suffering. If this is on the scent, how rich do you want to be on the day of judgment?

I think I have only scratched the surface here. I think there are mirad dynamics to be pursued that I have not even touched on -whole directions really. But, I think this is enough to break through the ice that ME's and Agent wife's comments seemed to crack (for me anyway).

miller said...

recently my son prayed that God would give him some coconuts. it was a child like prayer. there were times when i thought "why would God answer this prayer when there are so many really big needs in the world. somewhere there is a little boy praying that his father will live or that his mom will come home or that the pain will just please stop..."

but i believe God chose to answer that childlike prayer of his. i prayed that God would answer it also because i wanted my little boy's faith to be built! God did answer!

but some would say it was just a coincidence...

thats OK with me.

the other little boy's dad is dying for a reason, his mom is gone for a reason, his pain is there for a reason... and not all of the reasons are neat and tidy reasons that we can find goodness in...

our world is fallen. there is an enemy! i don't like exum's idea that somebody has to suffer... but i think it may be true. God allows us to choose the darkness, the enemy, the hatred that brings suffering and he also allows the innocent to suffer the consequences of those choices.

i didn't get to choose who my parents are. i thank God they were part of a heritage who had chosen light! i want to help others choose light so the chain of dark consequences can be broken in the lives of many.


Mike Exum said...

Imagine this:

In the world as "humanity" lives in it currently, each of us has to "look out for #1" because no one else will. (maybe your mama... for some-maybe not ... will look out for you before her own interests, but practically no one else) This means that at some level (probably most levels) you have to preserve yourself at the expense of someone else.

Now picture this: in such a world, every single person looks out for only themselves at the expense of everyone else. No one looks out for you except you. Everyone else is your enemy or potential enemy. Those who are skilled at this game can check thousands or millions of fellow competitors.

However, in the age to come, everything will be the otherway round. No one looks out for themselves, the look out for everyone else in stead. Everyone else gets your first interest, not yourself. This means that every other living soul holds my interest above their own and I theirs. The only hitch is that I must give up my own interest in order to participate.

The deal is this: in the current situation, only one person looks out for my best interest. In the age to come, every one else will. Which is a better deal? The second -the age to come is a spectacularly better way of life, but it comes at the cost of giving up self preservation -and that is a high price admission ticket. Tough to join that game -especially when so very few fellow competitors are willing to join too. And given that observation, the transition is ripe to be abused by those who will not join.

This is the image I am working from. B is pushing himself deep into the image I am offering (in my estimation) -very sacrificially. However, my image also calls on the larger community to play along -not for individuals to go it alone. That implies church. But then there are so many rubs in that to fill a dozen blogs. So I'll quit there. But I hope this image clarifies my earlier statements a bit.

Agent B said...

Child-like faith.

Thanks Jack ("me"). Glad someone said it.

Agent B will continue reporting from the fair mother city, mostly in and around Undercover Ln. And hopefully will continue trying to employ something resembling child-likeness.

agent Wife said...

This comment: "our world is fallen. there is an enemy! i don't like exum's idea that somebody has to suffer... but i think it may be true." by "me" and Exum reminds me of one of my least favorite and disturbing scriptures. Jesus himself said: "the poor will always be with you". I hate that. Why? why? why? I've read lots of blogs on homelessness and the new vogue and vocabulary is to SOLVE homelessness. Part of me is excited and says dream big, go for it, another part remembers this scripture and says, why would He say that?, THE SAVIOR of all people said that? I think it was in a book about Mother Theresa where I read a little story of a poor, begging little child, cold and uncared for. The narrator asks God why He doesn't do anything about the little girl's suffering and he felt the CEO tell him that He did do something, He sent the narrator. Humbling. And while I know we can't save the world (that's Jesus' job), we can have an impact with the people He sends our way and know that love really does conquer all, our prayers are effective and our sacrificial living brings life to those around us.

chuckie said...

James 1:17 - every good and perfect gift comes from above.

Will Spina said...

I appreciate agent Wife's comment. You've got a good heart and that just shows.
CS Lewis wrote on the problem of pain, the prophets wrote on the problem of pain, and you know- it is not so bad to be relatively poor. Jesus was in poverty when he said that the poor will always be with us, and yet he didn't consider himself one of them????

I grew up poor, not homeless, just poor. I would say that I am no longer poor (financially though I struggle to pay my bills at times as we all do). I am not rich materially either. I believe I have something now so that I can share and give it to others, and let them enjoy with me whatever material blessings I have and glorify God. I don't really view my material possessions as being my own and I feel like I live in a palace now (because I grew up in a tiny trailer). There is traffic in and out of my house almost daily, sharing what I have almost daily.

But reality is, everything material can go in a minute. But not my love, not my hope, not any of my real treasures. I have peace because my hope is not in material things. The gospel was good news for the poor wasn't it? What could he mean? Why? Could it be that we are looking at the problem of poverty all wrong? Could it be that we need to address the spiritual issues and meanings more directly? Do you think Jesus was concerned with raising people's material standards? "The birds of the air are fed by God, so don't worry about that stuff, instead follow me". Reality is, if you are going to be a Christian you will have less time to spend on accumulating material wealth. YOu can not serve God and money. You will love one and despise the other.

2 Cor. 8:8-9 (ESV)
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. [9] For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.