How Being Broke Can Be a Blessing

Acts 3:1-9 tells the story of Peter, John and a lame beggar.

The short version is this: the beggar asked Peter and John for money, but, being broke, they gave him something else: a miraculous healing.

Broke? It could be a blessing. Here's how:  I wonder what would have happened if the apostles had had money.

Would they have simply done what many of us do – throw money at the problem instead of investigating it? Hmm.

I am not recommending that we strive to be penniless, but I do believe we can learn a few things from this event.

1. The Beggar Had Limitations

If we could read his thoughts, I am guessing we would hear something like, “I have been a beggar all of my life and that is all I will ever be.” Because his destiny was wrapped up in his self worth, his narrow self esteem blocked other possibilities in his life.

Lesson to us:

What life commands subconsciously dictate your behavior? Do you sabotage your own job promotion possibilities because your parents told you that you would never amount to anything? Do you think of yourself as “stupid” because some school mates chided you or because your 5th grade teacher thought you were hopeless? Do you have trouble dreaming of a better tomorrow because your grandmother told you that life on this earth will always be full of problems? My point is this: you have untapped potential. In spite of what you may believe about yourself, reality is that you have within you the ability to soar past those self-imposed limitations.

2. Peter and John Looked Past Those Limitations

The beggar, who had been lame from birth, was carried to the temple gate every day so he could beg. Peter and John also went to the temple their times of prayer. They had undoubtedly seen him there many, many times. They had probably given him money from time to time, but on this particular day, the scripture tells us that “Peter looked straight at him, as did John.” (NIV)

In so doing, they suddenly had a supernatural insight into his life: this lame man needed something far more important then money – he needed the ability to walk. The obvious? He was a beggar. He needed money. The not-so-obvious? He wasn’t destined to beg for the rest of his life.

Lesson to us:

Do you see people only as they are today, or do you envision their potential? What impact could we make in others’ lives if we, like Peter and John, looked at them and saw beyond the superficial to the deeper issues of their gifts, their dreams and their untapped talents?  How would the lives of our spouses, our children, our friends and our co-workers be different if we practiced this principle?

3. Peter and John Did Not Limit God

Until Jesus entered into Peter and John’s lives, they were mere fishermen born into fishermen families, undoubtedly resigned to the destiny life had given them. One wonders if their own transformations gave them the insight to see potential in others. These two had encountered a resurrected Christ; they had witnessed Jesus’ bodily ascension into the clouds and they had been filled with the Holy Spirit. Because they had learned not to limit a limitless God, they had no reservations about proclaiming these words to the beggar.

Lesson to us:

I wish I had the faith of Peter and John. I really do. But the lesson to me is to utilize what faith I do have. In 2011, my wife experienced a new level of faith . . . she decided that she would no longer limit God in her life (and, by extension, in my life). We had “Do Not Limit Our Limitless God” posters on walls all over our house. And guess what? God:

  • Helped us find a great “vacation van” – with a bumper-to-bumper warranty – for the exact dollar amount we had budgeted.
  • Helped my daughter-in-law, fresh out of college, secure a job 15 others were applying for.
  • Provided a teaching job for my daughter that she didn’t apply for, the day she got turned down for a teaching job she had applied for.

As I stated earlier, this article is not a recommendation that we become penniless so that God can use us in more powerful ways. It is instead a challenge to look beyond what money can do . . . to “look intently” at others, to develop empathy for the one needing help, to consider gifts that go beyond a financial contribution and to become involved in people’s lives.

We will discover that such giving will cost more than a few dollars; we will be giving our time, our energy and our emotional support.

Expensive? Very much so, but is this not what Jesus gave for us?

In what ways do you limit yourself? Your friends and family? God? Leave a comment!

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15 Comments
  1. Bryan Entzminger

    Great question! I’m really glad you asked. As I was reading I realized there are probably some areas where I do that.

    Most notably, as I’ve launched a podcast where I find and share stories from missionaries, I keep asking God where the money is going to come from (I have a deal with my wife that I won’t keep pouring resources into it). But maybe I need to reframe the whole thing away from money and towards God’s provision.

    I’m going to ask Him about that.

    Thanks again.

  2. Rose

    It seems to me, as I read this, that your perspective could be rewritten as “the blessing is that you don’t have to be broke” and while that’s great, I would add that there are blessings during the season! I think that’s a bit of a flaw to your article.

    For example, during my season of unemployment, I gained a whole new appreciation for generosity – not just generosity of funds, but of time, energy, service, etc. People gave to me and I learned to give to others without dollar signs attached.

    During my season of unemployment, and the early stages of my freelance business (currently still happening) I have grown by leaps and bounds in my reliance on God – not on myself – for his provision. My faith has been challenged in good ways, as I learn to take steps trusting that he will give me the funds to pay the electric bill and put food on the table. My pride has been brought into sharp focus, as I realize how much my career and financial/material status meant to me, and how hard it is for me to let others help me when I need it. My image has been crumbled, even, as I realize how much I want to wear the high end cosmetics and carry the Coach bags and drive the fancy car. The last several months I have been seeing my image as so different than those things, and I find more peace in who I am in Christ – rather than worrying about who I am with labels.

    You are right in pointing out that there is potential and that God can do far more than we expect or hope for! But I would just encourage anyone who is in the middle of being broke, that while it’s difficult, there are multiple silver linings to recognize and learn from.

    • James

      Thank you. You just wrote exactly what i have been feeling over the last year. Keep the faith!

  3. Craig

    Joe, thank you so much for using God’s Word to encourage us to look (internally and externally) beyond the boundaries of our 5 senses and that of myths about our or other’s identity. I challenge each reader to assess what we consider a normal, routine or settled state of affairs and allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten us to our role in the future.

  4. michael stewart

    Such an interesting article, worth much thought. Thanks

  5. Ellen

    Awesome article! Very encouraging.
    I especially appreciated the part of your article where you mention your wife and how she developed that, “don’t limit a limitless God” attitude! I know that my situation doesn’t scare God, but often it’s just like, “….okay… something cool needs to happen soon.”

    I’m actually fresh out of college and in the middle of my grace period for student loans and the only way I even had money any time in the past was because of campus jobs. Now I’m like a xx-small fish in a xxl-pond, and it’s just been brutal finding work.

    Anyhow, I enjoy seeing these articles in my inbox 🙂
    Great job, Joe and Bob, and everyone 😀

  6. Romeo Jeremiah

    Great post, Joe.

    Like you stated, many people like to throw money at their problems are think that having money will solve their problems. In a way money does solve problems but not having it allows someone to think critical about whatever is going on in their life. For example, if you keep running out of money at the end of the month, maybe it’ll one day make you stop and think. What is this happening? What can I do to extend my money? How can I education myself so that I’d never have to be in this position again?

  7. Raka

    Thank you for the article, and for your talented insights. Could you please consider writing an article about making decisions when you are faced with two or more competing choices, etc?

    Thanks again.

  8. MEL810

    One blessing I had during a season (1.5years) of unemployment was time and leisure. My major bills were covered by savings and a helpmeet and I had the time and leisure to go swim every day.; The clhlorine from the swimming pool finally cleared up a bout of conjunctivitis that wouldn’t seem to go away. I had lost my insurance with the job. My wonderful eye doctor gave me some pro bono treatment but the awful eye problem was still there,
    Not only did the conjuntivits clear up, I lost 30 lbs. and got really buff from swimming every day!Blessings to all!

  9. Thank you for this article. I think that while we try to live within God’s will and attempt to be content with what we have, we can be guilty of limiting God. Thank you for giving me something to think about!

    • Victoria

      I agree, Heather. When we become too content we can’t grow and reach the full potential which God has designed for each of us. (Jeremiah 29:11) Most times, we just can’t imagine how BIG our God is.

  10. Sandy

    Very timely. Of course it’s been in my box for who knows how long, I haven’t had time to check my mail. But very timely indeed, as I just got done saying out loud, “I’m worthless, I will always be worthless”.

    I have many obstacles for which I have been prayerfully confident in my choices and still don’t know where I’ll end up. (living, end up living! not heaven or hell… I know heaven awaits me. Sorry if I caused worry 🙂 But guess what? I couldn’t find one photocopy I made the other day and totally threw in the towel with my, I’m worthless, statement.

    I have faith. I love my Lord. I am also soooo human it hurts sometimes. Too many obstacles. I pray each morning for Spiritual Armour. Because I can’t even find a piece of paper without praying. I’m not kidding.

  11. Jacob

    Very interesting article, thanks.

  12. Justina

    What a wonderful teaching. It really encouraged me and challenged me to stop criticizing folks in my life who are ‘beggars’ and ‘lame’ but to seek ways to call forth and encourage their potential. Some people will never rise up to their calling until someone else helps open their eyes to the possibility.

    Great message. I will share it with others..

  13. Created Well

    Lovin this! What a way to shift our thinking. Teaching a man to fish and offering him Jesus is much more messy than writing a check and putting it in the offering plate or donating online. This is when hands get dirty, hearts get affected, & souls get worn when we come face to face with the dire needs of this world – salvific and otherwise. Jesus didn’t die for us to write checks and click “donate” buttons. He died to address our sin here and we could live eternally – being lights in this world, salt on this earth, ambassadors and a priesthood as we pilgrim through this place that isn’t our home. Jesus touched the needy much more than he proclaimed a blessing from far off. Let’s do that too brothers and sisters!