We Are All Beggars
by Bethany Rushing
A short while ago I took a downtown stroll from my office to get some cake from Edgar’s. I forgot to get a drink and toyed with the idea of hitting up another place farther down the street just to stretch my legs. After a block or so of walking, a man approached me and asked me to buy him a sandwich. I said, “Sure!” We were in front of Jimmy John’s so we went in and he ordered a turkey sandwich. Before I paid, I added on a drink and asked him if I could sit and eat with him. His facial expression told me he wasn’t too excited about making conversation with a stranger, but I had my cake and wanted a little company.
In the course of our conversation I learned a lot about my new friend, mostly because I asked him a lot of questions. I’ve never loved eating in silence. I learned that he had been out of jail for three months, clean for over three years, attends Narcotics Anonymous meetings twice a week, was raised in Birmingham, and that his cousin had gotten him a job at a nearby steel company, but that he didn’t have the steel toe boots he needed for it. The job was supposed to start on Monday, and his boss had given him until Thursday to get the appropriate footwear. I told him I’d do a little research for him. He didn’t ask me to; but with only one obstacle standing in his way, it seemed foolish to not try and help.
We parted ways and I started my walk back to church. When the familiar feeling of pride creeps up after doing a “good deed” I can expect to be knocked down a few notches pretty quickly.
Just two blocks away from the office, I saw a man carrying his belongings walk across the street in front of me. He stopped and began digging through a trashcan, searching for scraps of food. I prayed that he would move on before I passed him. I even considered walking a different way so I wouldn’t have to pass him. You see, I had done my service. But I didn’t go another way. I passed him by, and he didn’t ask me for a thing. In fact, as I walked by he found a discarded drink among the trash, pulled off the lid, and finished off its contents.
Something about that image reminded me of the alternative Prayer of Humble Access I learned years ago. “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation, and share your bread with sinners.” Immediately after that, the words of Martin Luther rang in my ears. Words he spoke on his deathbed: “We are beggars. This is true.”
We are, all of us, beggars! Our need is made level at the foot of the cross, whether we are aware of it, like my friend who was bold enough to ask for a sandwich, or not. And, if the God of our salvation shares his eternal bread with us, then being asked to share what bread we do have with fellow beggars is one of the most beautiful invitations Christ extends to us, his body.
Such great mercy; such a beautiful gift! May the Lord keep reminding us of our deep need for him. May we respond to his invitation to give out of the wellspring of blessing he lavishes upon us beggars.