Siddhartha's transformation into the Buddha began when he exchanged his prince's robes for a beggar's bowl. Jesus told a rich young man that if he wished to be perfect, he should sell all that he possessed. He sent his disciples out into the world, instructing them, "Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money — not even an extra tunic." Francis of Assisi later took these words to heart, making them the foundation of the first mendicant monastic order.
Abraham Lincoln once quipped that God must truly love the poor, since he made so many of them. In a world of rich and poor, there is little doubt where Jesus' sympathies lay. Blessed are the poor, he said, for theirs is the kingdom of God. By the same token, he told his disciples it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter God's kingdom.
Was it merely to show solidarity with the poor that Jesus advised the rich young man to impoverish himself? Was this why he sent his disciples into the world empty-handed? I suspect there was more to it than that. Jesus made it clear that "whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple," suggesting that poverty is less the issue than the act of renunciation itself. As long as we imagine there is something to be gained in seeking God, we are merely trying to store up more treasure for ourselves. Only when we realize there is nothing to be gained and nothing left to give do we find ourselves in the place where God's grace abounds. We discover that the kingdom of God is a beggar's banquet.