Devotional Day 14
Listen brothers and sisters: did God not choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the good name by which you have been called?James 2:5-7
A Growing Crowd of Pilgrims
With an estimated distance of 18-19 km to walk to a municipal albergue where order of arrival dictated choice of beds for a growing number of pilgrims, we purposefully (and successfully) made an effort to depart around 7 am. The sky still carried some sunrise colors as we headed out of the city. After at least an hour of walking we found a café for coffee and breakfast, with plenty of other pilgrims also present. From there we maintained a pretty consistent pace, ascending and descending two significant “hills.”
By the second one we were seeing more tourist/pilgrim traps, stops by the path selling cold drinks and trinkets halfway up a steep incline. Aside from a couple brief stops for applying sunscreen and drinking (our own) water, we continued forward. Around us, many pilgrims took breaks with those cold drink offers. By now, we had established our own rhythms, perhaps reducing levels of distractability and making it easier to contemplate on James’ words.
“the poor of this world… rich in faith”
Earlier James talked about our faith being tested in the midst of trials and made steadfast. The poor know what it means to be tested, to turn to God out of necessity, to ask and trust Him for provision. Many rich don’t know what true need, trust, and dependence look like. Their faith is not stretched out of true necessity. In some ways this makes it more difficult to find the same intimacy with Jesus. He stated that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Fortunately, Jesus also noted that with God all things are possible, and wealth doesn’t mean complete exclusion from the kingdom of heaven.
But it is the poor who can teach us how to pray in faith, how to be humble, how to be grateful for the little things, how to find joy outside of superficial privileges and possessions. For the wealthy, gaining more doesn’t bring contentment for long. Instead, it becomes an ongoing pattern of the new becoming normal, and something more always desired.
Positive Outcomes of Overcoming Obstacles
It seems when a challenge or goal is more difficult, there is a greater satisfaction that comes with achieving it. Many people complete El Camino and all who walk at least the last 100 km are eligible to receive a certificate (as long as you get at least two stamps a day in your passports). But the walk itself differs greatly from one person to the next. Some carry everything they need with them on their backs, and spend each night on a bunk bed in a room full of other pilgrims. Others go from one hotel to the next, paying for their luggage to be delivered ahead of them, and catching a taxi when feeling tired, at least before the final 100 km.
Some have overcome enormous physical, emotional, and spiritual obstacles just to begin, and others face unexpected obstacles along the way. We’ve all learned not to judge one another for the decisions and plans made. What may be easy for one person could be a significant challenge for another. But having a very difficult journey seems to create a greater sense of fulfillment upon completion. Everyone gets the same certificate, but some learn more, overcome more, and are stretched more along the way. Climbing up a steep hill in the heat of the day was exhausting, but a great sense of satisfaction came with reaching the summit, seeing a beautiful view, going to bed exhausted, yet satisfied.
Where is Honor Due?
In the journey of life, we rarely get to choose what obstacles we will face. Usually it’s out of our hands! But we do have some choice of how to respond. We choose whether to see opportunities for learning, growing, and becoming more dependent on God, or giving up, looking for the easiest way out, and doing everything possible to prevent discomfort. Generally we honor those we see who seem to “come out on top” by human standards.
I think we often fail to honor and respect those who are constantly facing and overcoming the greatest obstacles—like the ones still wearing dirty clothes. The ones who arrive at the gates of the kingdom of heaven wearing gold rings and expensive clothes are not honored by worldly standards. It is the ones limping in, sweaty and smelly, exhausted from a life of surrender to God who are incredibly grateful to have made it all the way. They are honored for their faithfulness. Why wait for heaven to acknowledge such people? Why aren’t we honoring them, not just with words, but coming alongside them with practical, emotional, and relational support?
Arriving and Arranging for the Final Arrival
The albergue was on the close end of town and we were able to arrive a little after noon, even with the added distance of the “complementario” route through the forest instead of on the main road. With the doors not opening until 1 pm, we put our bags in line (only about 10 in front of us) and relaxed, shoes off, eating a few snacks, and chatting with the other pilgrims.
Once inside and registered, we went through the usual routine of cleaning ourselves and our clothes. While looking for a quiet place for devotions, I discovered miniscule, tasty strawberries behind the building (though not a comfortable place to sit). Later I saw the young German woman who had lent us the corkscrew, and got to hear more of her story, including the coming of her first child. Meanwhile, Dean also made new friends. Around 7:30 pm we went out hoping to find dinner, despite it being a Sunday (when many businesses are closed). Nearby we found a Turkish restaurant open, and after talking about Turkey (which we’ve visited) we enjoyed the doner kebab.
Upon return our primary goal was to figure out some schedule plans and reserve beds in Santiago. Already many of the spots were taken. Even one of the enormous albergues that had hundreds of beds was fully booked. But we did get two beds at one of the albergues a little way from the center of the city. I appreciated knowing we had a place to stay, considering the thousands coming in daily from different directions. It also meant we were getting close enough to know when we’d arrive. The end was in sight.
Thank You, Lord, for the obstacles I’ve faced that have pushed me to greater dependence on You. Forgive me for my failure to recognize those “rich in faith,” who are facing their own obstacles, as being worthy of honor. Help us as the Body of Christ to see wealth and need by heavenly standards, not earthly ones. Show us how to honor the poor.
- When you hear “the poor of this world,” what comes to mind? Who are the poor nearest to you and how are they treated?
- What are practical ways to help and honor the poor or disadvantaged?
- Spend some time asking Jesus to show you His heart for the poor. Ask how He wants you to respond.
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