Poverty can shrink the soul and deform the spirit. The worst kind of poverty is the illusion that you are poor when you are not poor. Mildred was raised in meagre circumstances, not desperately poor but poor enough to shape her into living as a miser in her adult and married life.
Once married, Mildred was still not desperately poor but her early life meant that her thinking was formed out of scarcity rather than abundance.
Mildred lived from scarcity, even when things were not nearly as scarce as she imagined. She sowed this sense of scarcity and possible financial catastrophe into the souls of her children, with the result that even in their middle class life, with their more than adequate incomes, they pictured themselves as poor and took on the identity and vision of the modern peasant.
‘Turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God’ Prov 2.2-5 NIV.
It's not ok to be ignorant and un-educated. It’s even less ok to be uninformed with limited intelligence and be persuaded that you have ‘common sense’. Christians and humanists around the world know that to educate people is to make them more human and give them a better life. In times past the word ‘peasant’ was code for poverty and ignorance. Today when most are not living from scarcity it means ignorant – and often ignorance by choice.
In a poverty mentality the other’s gain is seen as your loss. Thus Aborigines and those who live on welfare are resented because their gain is seen as the scarcity addicts loss. They think of the poor and marginalised as benefiting from wealth that they earned. Never mind that they personally inherited a mass of infrastructure and social wealth they never personally earned and did not pay for. While they live in relative abundance they imagine themselves living in scarcity of the kind that makes them poor in soul and spirit even when they have a good bank balance. Misers are poor even when they have more than enough.
Small-mindedness and addiction to one’s ideas makes one bigoted and inflexible. A desperate clinging to one’s stuff taints us with selfishness and racism. This is a parable of the person who lives out of the law instead of a life in a God of unlimited grace and freedom of spirit. A legalist lives from a scarcity mentality and lives a scarce life. In the law we live from our currency instead of God’s Spirit. Doing the gifts in an old covenant framework is not life in the Spirit. It’s life in a poverty mentality with a ration of fish on Fridays. This kind of Christian poverty mentality is just as much a perversion of our inheritance as the prosperity gospel.
There are many who were raised in poverty who do not end up with a withered spirit, a key-hole vision or in a thimble of conservativism where change is dreaded, truth is denied and life to the full is seen as impractical or un-holy.