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Poverty: A Holistic Definition- Spiritual Poverty

Updated on July 26, 2011

In continuing this topic on poverty, we now come to the issue of spiritual poverty. Of the five categories of poverty (mental, emotional, social, physical and spiritual) this one is the one I struggle with presenting the most. To approach this subject is dangerous. Some may take offense to what I am about to say. Some will be offended thinking that I am being too narrow in my thoughts, while others will be offended thinking that I am being too wide in my thoughts. But, I must deal with this area none the less. Many people suffer from a spiritual poverty, which in turn leads to other forms of poverty mentioned above. So, let's dive in and look together at this important subject.

What is not meant by 'spiritual'

Before we can began a meaningful discussion, we must first come to terms with the meaning of the word 'spiritual'. By spiritual I do not mean 'religion'. By saying that some suffer from spiritual poverty I do not mean that they lack religion. In fact, the individuals I have observed who struggle with spirituality the most are very religious. The reason, I believe, this occurs is that people allow religious practices and beliefs to get in the way of what it truly means to be spiritual. So, being spiritual is not the same as being religious.

Too, by 'spiritual' I do not mean 'mystical'. While true spirituality is somewhat mystical it is also something experienced in the physical. For example, when someone sits next to a disabled person and speaks words of encouragement to them, something spiritual happens, although it was a physical moment.

How important is the spiritual?

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What it means to be spiritual

To be spiritual is to connect with God and with our fellow humans on more than the physical level. In the Western culture of science and reason it is difficult for people living in that culture to fully grasp the spiritual. As humans we do not exist merely on the physical level. Being a Christian I believe that we have both a spiritual and physical aspect to us. That is, we are spirit being inhabiting a physical body. Angels are spirit beings, but lack a physical body. As humans we are both spirit and body. To not realize this is to suffer poverty on the spiritual level.

Why is this poverty? Because it causes us to neglect a major part of our makeup. I am married. If I were to come to the belief that my wife does not exist, then I would be neglecting a major part of my life. This would lead to poverty, in that I would be lacking a part of what it takes to make me whole. Too, when people do not believe in the spiritual or neglect the spiritual part of their lives, they experience poverty, because they are lacking a part of what makes us humans whole.

To sum up, to be spiritual is to connect with God and our fellow humans on more than the physical level. It is to connect with our spirits.

How to develop the spiritual

Now we come to the fun part. How do we develop our spiritual side? I believe we should look no further than to a person who was highly spiritual, and very unreligious. That person was Jesus. Jesus lived in a time of extreme religion. People were killing each other on the basis of religion. The religious leaders of Israel killed Jesus due to His lack of conformity to the religious system. The Romans killed Christians for being atheists, because they would not recognize the Roman gods. In the midst of times like this comes a person who rejected all of it for the spiritual. Jesus shows us how to be truly human and spiritual.

Let's look at a few ways He developed spirtually:

1. Prayer

Throughout the gospels we see Jesus taking time off to do nothing but pray. His connection to the Father was essential to his development as a human. He could not do what he did with healing people and restoring broken people without a vital connection to God.

2. Serving

Jesus developed spiritually by serving others. The Bible states in Romans 12 that our spiritual act of worship happens when we serve others by giving our bodies as living sacrifices. To serve our fellow human is to connect with God.

3. Defending the poor

In Jeremiah 22:16, God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to Israel and states that to know God is to defend the cause of the poor and needy. While doing this is a physical act, it brings a spiritual aspect to the situation. We too often separate the physical and spiritual, but here God teaches us that the two are closely connected. Jesus was one who preached the good news to the poor as prophesied through the prophet Isaiah.

4. Relationships

Jesus did not just connect with God, but with His fellow humans. He lived in close relationship with the 12 disciples along with a few women who followed Him closely. He loved deeply and related well. He was not an island unto Himself, but lived by including others in His life. In I John, the apostle John states that you cannot claim to love God if you do not love your fellow human. Again, the physical and spiritual are closely related.


I hope this helps. If you are experiencing spiritual poverty, that is, you are lacking in the spiritual realm, then I encourage you to look to the Bible for help. Too, connect with a group of spiritual followers of Jesus and learn how to live in the physical and spiritual realm. By doing so you will discover another part of life that leads you to a holistic life.

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    • Michael Davis profile imageAUTHOR

      Michael Davis 

      7 years ago

      Thank you Phoebe. It is an interesting subject. Thanks for the positive note.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      7 years ago

      Very unique and different. I love it. It's fascinating reading about this subject.

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