"We are beggars, that is true."

December 1, 2009 — 3 Comments
A first blog post feels self-indulgent no matter what you write. So, I’m just hoping to get this one out of the way. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll feel better getting to #2. Post #1 feels too important, like you are supposed to have something deep and life-changing to say. A first blog ought to have the beauty of Dostoyevsky, the wit of Churchill and the depth of Augustine. It ought to have a self-designed graphic as a header and a cool video link too, and probably some references to alt-country, hip hop and 80s hair bands (as long as it’s not Poison). OK, so maybe I have some issues.
 
I ran across a memorable line recently in Heiko Oberman’s biography of Luther (great read BTW). Two days before he died, Luther was writing about the depth of the Scriptures, about how you could study them for a lifetime and not exhaust their mystery. His conclusion: “We are beggars, that is true.” He was a doctor of theology, long-time pastor and leader of the reformation–and he saw himself as a beggar.  
 
This was not some sort of morbid I’m-a-loser-baby-so-why-don’t-you-kill-me sarcasm. And it wasn’t self-pity. It was the gospel. The gospel tells us that we are poor and desperate creatures without God’s help. No matter how little or how much we have accomplished, it’s not enough. That’s why we keep trying to prove ourselves–in the gym, at work, in fantasy football, in ministry, in good causes. In so many ways, we are still seeking approval. We want to be a success, which isn’t all bad, except that we usually equate our worth with our success. And that’s a real problem.
 
The “we are beggars” line tells us something else we need to know: there is one we can appeal to for help. God is always available to come to our aid.  God says to us, “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). Beggars announce their needs to someone who can help, and they aren’t always polite or proper in their asking–they just get it out there. Even though they have nothing to offer, they receive the help they need.
 
Luther saw himself as a beggar, but that didn’t keep him from doing great things. Understanding the gospel gives you the confidence to try new things without expectation or worry (preaching to myself here). Because you have already received help in the place of your greatest need, you don’t have to try so hard to earn your keep. Because you are already accepted in Jesus, you don’t have to worry about earning acceptance of others. You are already loved completely, so writing well or getting that promotion or perfecting your facebook picture or defeating that particular bad habit won’t earn you more love, significance or worth.  Luther’s message was that life is a battle to believe the gospel that you are loved completely in Christ and no longer need to strive for love elsewhere. Saying “we are beggars” is simply a reminder that, as much as we want to make a difference in the world, we cannot cling to our achievements (that is death); we can only cling to Christ (that is life).
 
So, as I enter the blogosphere with a billion other beggars, I’ll be preaching the gospel to myself: let go of the worry, embrace Christ, and post away.
“For Freedom, Christ has set us free.”
Galatians 5:1  
-jdl

3 responses to "We are beggars, that is true."

  1. 

    Great “first blog post” … I appreciate “let go of worry, embrace Christ, and post away”. Wish you were still an office away to chat theology and culture. Missing those days! Looking forward to reading future posts! 🙂
    Christy

  2. 

    Welcome to the blogosphere!

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