The Poverty Spirit
In Matthew 17, there is a record of the disciples trying to cast an evil spirit out of a boy. After they failed, they brought the boy to Jesus who removed the demon and healed the boy. Later, when the disciples asked why they were unable to remove the demon, Jesus said:
“Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matt 17:20 NKJV
He then added this remark:
“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
What did Jesus mean when he said the kind of demon they encountered did not come out except by prayer and fasting?
He implied that there are different types of demons. The word that is translated kind in this verse is the Greek word γένος (genos) from which we get the English word ‘genealogy’. This word describes the differences between related varieties of living beings—between families, races, tribes or nations. There are different families or races of demons and the one they encountered was somehow different. If you’re curious to know how it was different, consider that Mark’s account mentioned that the demon caused the boy to be deaf and mute. Matthew noted that it caused him to have seizures. Both accounts mention only one spirit. This is the only spirit mentioned in the Bible that caused more than one type of physical affliction. (Compare Mt. 17:15 and Mk. 9:25)
Evil spirits specialize. Some specialize in physical affliction, like the spirit that afflicted the woman who had been crippled for eighteen years (Lk. 13:11). Some specialize in emotional trauma, like the one that terrorized King Saul (1Sam. 18:10). Some specialize in divination, like the spirit Paul cast from the woman who followed him for many days. (Acts 16:17-18) Some specialize in lust. Others specialize in fear.
Most of us are influenced by evil spirits on a regular basis. (Note that I said influenced and not possessed.) When a person comes under the influence of an orphan spirit, they may profess to believe that God loves them but they act as if He doesn’t. When a person comes under the influence of a religious spirit, they judge the behavior of others as ungodly and hold them to a legalistic interpretation of the scriptures. When we come under the influence of a poverty spirit, we reject the idea that God wants us to prosper.
The poverty spirit promotes its agenda by slightly twisting the scriptures. “Money is the root of all evil” the spirit will say, omitting the first part of the verse. The full verse, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” reveals that money itself is not the problem but rather, an evil a heart that desires money above all else.
Simon the sorcerer is held up as an example of those who hope to get rich from Christian ministry. The poverty spirit tells us a true child of God would never prosper from such work. The apostle Peter received a word of knowledge from the Lord about Simon’s problem. He had a bitter heart filled with iniquity:
“For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”
If one’s primary desire from ministry is a large paycheck then greed has likely poisoned the heart.
But we should ask if it’s possible to love the Lord with all our heart and serve him out of that passion and still be blessed financially.
Does financial prosperity always indicate a motive of greed?
The poverty spirit insists that financial blessing must always be rejected as evil. It whispers in our ear that it is the poor that God truly cares for. The rich are only rich because they are evil. We should never seek or expect any type of financial blessing. The poverty spirit will coin phrases like, “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.”
To those who are under the influence of the poverty spirit, poverty itself is a virtue. It causes them to be satisfied with less than what God wants for them and it becomes an excuse not to expect anything more than what they have.
I have a friend who has worked in banking most of his life. I’ve never met anyone who is as blessed, financially. I’ve also never met anyone who is a more generous giver. When the Lord leads, he’ll drop thousands of dollars in an envelope and hand it to a stranger at a gas station. He thought nothing of spending $10,000 to fly me to Australia to teach his friends about healing. If things went well, he was prepared to spend $100,000 on a much larger kingdom-related project. Does financial blessing always indicate the person has a greedy heart?
Before moving to Arizona in 2011, Denise and I led a comfortable lifestyle. Our two incomes allowed us the freedom to make generous donations. After moving here, our finances took a hit. It’s a long story but in the years since then, we’ve gradually climbed out of that hole and our finances now allow us to give generously to others. We consider it an honor and a privilege. If we had allowed ourselves to be influenced by the poverty spirit, we would have doomed ourselves to a meager, pitiful existence that prevented us from impacting the world in a significant way. We refuse to allow that spirit to influence us.
President Trump has provided all the things necessary for Americans to live a prosperous lifestyle. Sadly, many people will miss out on that opportunity because they’ve chosen to believe a lie. I’m not suggesting that God has a Mercedes waiting for you if you just have enough faith to believe for it. I loathe the “prosperity gospel” as much as anyone. The spirit of greed is just as dangerous as the spirit of poverty. Guard your heart with all diligence. Refrain from allowing any kind of evil spirit to influence you, especially one that promises to make you appear more virtuous. Appearances are seldom what they seem. God looks at the heart.