Thursday, 30 July 2015

A lowly beggar at the gates of heaven

I was reading a guest post by a woman called Sarah Mae on Ann Voskamp's Holy Experience blog called: When You're Looking for Answers to the Cry of the Aching Woman's Heart, when I came across this line:

When we are desperate as beggars (Matthew 5:3, literal translation)the Kingdom is ours and the blessing can be found.
I'm a complete sucker for the words 'literal translation' and so I immediately got distracted from the message of the post and went off on a little etymological voyage of discovery.  Here's what I found:

Matthew 5:3 reads:“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

The word translated 'poor' is πτωχός, which transliterated is ptochos.  Ptochos means literally a destitute beggar - destitute of money, status, power and even virtue.  Strongs says: "strictly denoting absolute or public mendicancy".  (Yes I had to look up mendicancy - it basically means begging or being a beggar).

In other words this is total public destitution.  You cannot hide the fact that you are desperate.  There is a different Greek word for being in private straightened circumstances(i.e. you have to strive and toil just to make ends meet) and that word is πένης transliterated penes.

Public destitution.  So desperately in need that we really don't care who knows it.  We have nothing else to lean on, no-one else to go to.

To quote Rachel from Friends, "There's rock bottom.  Fifty feet of crap and then there's me".  You can't even look up from rock bottom "to see the stars" for all the crap on top of you.  Without Jesus we are destitute and blind.

Most of us are in 'penes', we know we are sinners, we know that in private we are ratbags or grumps or judgemental, I know I'm like this, but in public people see Sunday Sarah.  Full of the joy of the Lord, full of compassionate concern, full of 'good strong' Biblical knowledge, gifted by the Holy Spirit [or at least in my head this is what I hope they see]...etc, etc.

But Jesus says I need to get to the place of public destitution...what does this mean?

It means honesty.   It means that we stop spouting off like the Laodiceans about our giftings and general wonderfulness and admit we are "wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked". It means stop pretending and acknowledge an absolute desperate need for Jesus - like a beggar who knows that if they don't start publically begging they are going to die.

I would die without Jesus.

My dream, my desire, for the past three years has been, "I just want Jesus".  Nothing else, just Jesus. That's why the line from Simplicity by Rend Collective, "Lord strip it all away, 'til only You remain" really gets to me.  I don't want to lean on anything else except Him.  And that is hard, it is hard because I'm proud, and I mean proud in the sense that I keep trying to improve myself outside of God, whilst simultaneously subconsciously working on making people like me!


I mentioned the book by Tim Keller - the Freedom of Self-forgetfulness - a couple of posts back and that's where I want to be.  I am desperately in need of God.  But because of pride I keep my destitution private.  I want to be forgetting self, but even in trying to forget self all you can think about is self; both pride and self-hatred are self-obsession.  There is an irony about trying to be humble, because you just end up more self-focussed! Ha.

I am a living example of Isaiah 30, in the sense that Jesus is there all along offering solace and solutions, but I'm going to rush off on my trusty steed to SORT.THINGS.OUT!

For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
“In returning and rest you shall be saved;
In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
But you would not,
And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”—
Therefore you shall flee!
And, “We will ride on swift horses”—
Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift!
One thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
At the threat of five you shall flee,
Till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain
And as a banner on a hill.
Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you;
And therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
Blessed are all those who wait for Him. (verses 15-18)
Yes, God waits patiently while I run around trying to sort my life out, until I have burned out trying to remember how to forget myself whilst simultaneously trying to impress people and 'get the work of the kingdom done' Sarah-style!  I am, figuratively speaking, left like a stick at the top of a hill - stripped down, laid bare for all to see.

I am nothing, but a lowly beggar at the gates of heaven.

But then. Everything.

When you can't keep up the pretence anymore, when you're weary of trying - Jesus - our strength and our rest is already there.  He never left, He simply waited.  That word 'wait' in Isaiah 30:18 is חָכָה, it's an expectant waiting - a longing.  God is longing for you.  I beg at the gates of heaven, but then Jesus is standing on the other side knocking.

Jesus - the key to the Kingdom of Heaven; the secret of the Kingdom of Heaven.

In Him we have the Kingdom.  When the Kingdom of Heaven is yours you can truly live full of the joy of the Lord, full of compassionate concern and live out the Word of's not an act it's just Jesus, He is all these things for us.

I'm not there yet, I'm sure no-one is, but just know this, through it all, through the two steps forward, three steps back kind of lives we live...Jesus is not waiting until you get it right before those gates are flung wide open, He waiting for you to hear Him knocking in the midst of your desperation and need.

Jesus loves you.


  1. Great post, Sarah! I loved The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, too.

    1. Thanks Pom Pom! :) It's a great little book, one I'll read again and again. x