The option for the poor is much more than a simple social teaching. It is not about standard of living, economic development, or soup kitchens as much as it is about the spirituality of what it means to be a Christian. Serving the poor should make every human aware of their own miserable poverty before God. In short, the fundamental relationship between humanity and God is one of extreme poverty as opposed to extreme wealth. God has everything, he is wealthy, not just in terms of material reality, but in terms, first and foremost, of spiritual reality. Spiritual wealth makes us much more wealthy and happy than material wealth could ever make us. Furthermore, to say we need a Church “that is poor and for the poor,” as Francis has said, is not so much about divesting ourselves of material wealth as much as it is about divesting ourselves of ideas of our identity that exalt the self at the expense of God.
In other words, the materially poor are in a material situation that forces them to confront the reality of their spiritual poverty before God. Furthermore, if they confront this reality with a profound trust in God they will be given access by God to the riches of his spiritual wealth. When those with excess material wealth are called on to help the poor, or even help them to the point of becoming poor themselves, they come into contact to a material reality that reflects the misery of man’s spiritual condition before God. This can lead to a recognition that material wealth does not bring happiness, and that we must look to God for wealth, for riches, for life and fulfillment that is, first and foremost, of a spiritual nature.
Let us never think of ourselves as superior on account of anything material we may have. Let us always seek to make ourselves poor, or rather, to recognize the reality of our radicalized poverty before God. It is in this way, by recognizing our poverty, that God will give us access to his wealth, to his happiness, to his salvation.