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I grew up in a poor Cajun family. My Mama and Dad loved God and we were at the church every time the doors flew open. Much of the rebellion against God that I went through was a direct result of the hypocrisy I noticed in church life. People always talked about how great God was, but I didn't see much greatness. They always talked about how God healed, but we were always sick. They talked about giving, but we never received much in return. Even as a small boy, I knew there was something wrong with the picture.

I can remember firsthand what poverty felt like. Down in the bayous of south Louisiana, I can remember my Mama driving us up to the old Royal Castle hamburger place. They sold these little, tiny burgers that were maybe two inches square. But they had ketchup and onion pieces on them. And they always had the softest bread. Besides that, they were only 16 cents each. We loved them.

Anyway, my Mama and Daddy would drive up to the place and, even though the tiny burgers were only 16 cents, my Mama wouldn't order anything for herself. She couldn't eat because we couldn't afford to buy everybody a Royal Castle hamburger. So she bought me and my brother one each. I remember that.

Now, she thought I never noticed that she didn't eat because we couldn't afford it. She probably thought I was too young to notice. I couldn't have been more than six. But she always did say that I was a thinker. She would just say she didn't want anything. But I knew better. Everybody liked Royal Castle burgers - my Mom especially.

I always heard Mama talking about how wonderful God was. So, when I'd see my Mama sit there with us and not be able to eat a little hamburger I would think to myself, why doesn't God feed my Mama? Now, I was thinking with a six-year-old mind. I always saved a bite of my hamburger for my Mom. It was so little. Two bites and it was gone. But, even if I wanted it - and I always did - I'd say, "Ma, I had enough." And she'd say, "No, boy. You need to eat that."

Then I'd go home and when I'd get to my room I'd close the door and cry. One time, I couldn't stand it anymore and even though I knew she might get mad I finally asked her what I wanted to know. "Why don't God help us, Mama?"

She said, "Well, you know, you've just got to stand and believe. You've got to love the Lord, Jesse. I mean, things are just hard sometimes." "I don't want that kind of God!" I said. "Don't you say that! Jesse, don't you ever say anything like that. I'll slap you silly if you say that again, boy!" she'd say.

"Okay, Ma. I won't say it no more." And I wouldn't. But I thought it. Oh, I thought about it a lot. And I never wanted to go to church because even as a little kid I didn't believe God was wonderful. I couldn't see Him doing anything for my family.

What happened? Religion. That's what happened. It crushed my family with its poverty teaching. They could have taught us how to rise above, how to shake off the poverty mentality and use the principles of God to experience blessing. They could have encouraged us to use faith to bring those blessings about. But they didn't.

We were already poor people. We didn't need any help to get poorer. Religion just strengthened the poverty mentality. It made it worse because poverty wasn't looked down upon, it became holy. It meant that you gave everything to God and you weren't concerned about earthly things. After religion stepped in, you couldn't shake poverty off my family if you tried. They clung to it because it was all they knew.

Poverty May Look Good to the Religious World, but It Stinks in the Nostrils of God
Have you ever wondered why religion picked up on poverty? Is there anywhere in the Bible where God says that He wants His people to live in poverty? Go ahead, look it up in the Word. There is nothing in there about God thinking poverty is holy. In fact, Ephesians practically screams out God's goodness and abundance!

Some religions actually ask their leaders to take a vow of poverty in an effort to make them more holy and acceptable to the Lord. This "poverty-is-holy" mentality is nowhere in the Bible. It is a man-made doctrine that stinks in the nostrils of God.

As a kid, I had enough sense to know that poverty wasn't good. I heard about heaven and it sounded real nice. Meanwhile, we were poor. And I hated being poor. I hated that other people looked at me and knew I came from a poor family. It was embarrassing to wear the same old clothes all the time. At least we were clean and fed, though. My Mama washed every day and she could cook very well.

But being poor was degrading. And I decided at a young age that I wouldn't stay poor. I had talents. I knew it. My Dad taught me a few chords on the guitar and by the time I was five years old, he was using me to play music for the church. I was the only musician around. I would play guitar at our church and my Dad would loan me out to the church down the street, too.

I won't go into many details of my testimony, but I will tell you this. I married my wife, Cathy, and we left southern Louisiana. Within just a few years I was playing rock music with a band, touring and making $13,000 a week. Back in the 70s that was some serious dough. I think it's a lot for today! But I was drinking a fifth of whiskey a day and doing all kinds of drugs.

Cathy got saved during this time and she was always asking me to go to church with her. So one time I agreed. I told her, "Look. I'm going to go, but just so it will get you off my back. One time, that's it."

She was thrilled. She invited my brother and we all went together. We walked through the back doors of the church and everybody turned around and stared. I'd forgotten how I looked compared to church people. I had long, wavy, chocolate-brown hair, cut in a shag. Do you remember that 70s cut, the shag? They say it's back, but I don't know. I think it should remain history. Anyway, I was skinny and dressed like a musician from the early 70s drug culture. These church people's eyes were as big as quarters.

So, I was sitting in the back and listening. The preacher said his thing and then at the end he asked everybody to bow their heads. I bowed mine.

You know, here I was in church...a sinner. I was a man who needed Jesus. A man who had a lot of money, who could pay off a church. A man who could bless kids and send them on church trips or whatever. A man who really had a soft heart. And because I never respected money, because I knew I could always make it, I was a man who didn't mind giving.

My head was bowed and then I heard a voice bellowing from the front of the church. "Hey, you! You back there with the long hair! Do you want to get saved?"

It dawned on me. He was talking to me! And I heard Cathy start speaking in tongues. She knew me. She knew that I wouldn't let anybody try and harass me. I looked at Cathy and loudly said, "What? What's the matter with this idiot?" And Cathy just kept praying. "What's the matter with this fool?!" I hollered. Then I started cussing. And I mean I started cussing. Right there in the church and I didn't care if they all heard it. I wanted them to.

I stood up and said, "I'll tell you one thing, you blankety-blank-blank-blank! I'll kick your blankety-blank-blank from here to blankety-blank!" (I'm sure you can imagine how I filled in those blanks!) My brother grabbed me and said, "Whoa, Jesse. No, don't hit him!" I was on my way. Preacher or no preacher, I wanted to knock that guy between the eyes. He was so fat, I could have hit his head against the wall then watched it bounce back 16 times!

Man, he saw that I was mad. My brother grabbed me by one arm and my wife grabbed me by the other and they started to move out of the pew. But just as they had me through the back doors, I turned around. "Hey, look. I apologize. I guess I shouldn't be cursing in church." The preacher just stood there. The deacons didn't say anything. Nobody said anything.

"Look, I want to give something," I said as I pulled a big wad of bills out my jacket. I always kept a couple of grand on me back then, just in case I wanted to buy something. I had a stack of $100 bills and I was peeling them off one by one. I peeled about $800 off and I began to walk toward the front with my offering. The preacher reached out to take the money and I put it in his hand.

"Won't you put this in your church," I said. "Maybe it can help you out. I didn't mean to get too mad, you understand?" He nodded and said, "Oh, I appreciate that. Thank you." I turned to walk off and went, "Oh, wait a minute. Wait. Wait. Wait!" And I pulled my money out again. And when I did, the preacher smiled. He opened his hand to receive another offering. When he did I reached out, grabbed my money and pulled it right out of his hand. "If I'm not good enough for you, neither is my money!"

I took the money, folded it back into the thick wad I had in my jacket, turned around and walked out. I told Cathy, "I will never darken the doors of a church again. That's it. Never." I asked her, "Cathy, how come my money is good enough, but I'm not?" Cathy was so sweet. Her eyes welled up and all she said was, "The Lord loves you, Jesse. The Lord loves you." And she hugged me.

But I did not darken the doors of a church for years after that episode. Not until one night when I was getting dressed in a hotel for a gig. I was in Boston, Massachusetts, when I flipped on the tube and saw Billy Graham. And I watched him talk. I felt like saying, "See my hair? I'm a sinner. Smell this breath. I'm an alcoholic. See my nose? It's filled with white powder - cocaine. See my chest? It's drugs that are pumping my heart so fast, I've got purple splotches. I'm a sinner."

But Billy Graham didn't condemn me. He didn't ask for my money. He asked me for my life. He let me see the real Jesus. He showed me love like Paul which passeth knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). And that night I reached out to that love. I couldn't do it in front of Cathy, so I got up off the bed and went to the bathroom. That was the night I accepted Jesus into my life. And I've never been the same since.

What I always liked about Billy Graham's ministry is this: he never condemned me. He never talked about "long-haired hippie freaks." He actually seemed to care for my soul. He showed me a side of God that I'd never seen, even as a child growing up in church.

You see, I should have never left God. But it was poverty of thought that made people think so not expect anything from God. But God never said that. Since I've gone from knowing about Him to knowing Him, I know that He never wanted that to happen at all. If you read His Word you'll find out that He loves His people. Many have just been led astray by lies.

God told us that He was able to do exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Don't you think it's time we start believing Him?

Copyright © Jesse Duplantis Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Jesse Duplantis
Web site: Jesse Duplantis Ministries
Jesse Duplantis is a dynamic evangelist who has traveled throughout the world since 1978 preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is the founder of Jesse Duplantis Ministries (JDM), which has its International Headquarters in America and additional offices in the United Kingdom and Australia.

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