There’s an old saying: “Beggars can’t be choosers.”
Sometimes, it’s actually right. If you’re living on hand-me-downs, you don’t get to choose what kind of fashion statement to make. Whoever’s handing it down to you got to choose that. You’re stuck with their decision. If you’re begging for food on the street corner, then you can’t choose if people will give you something, or if they do, what they will give. The most you can do is attempt to look more pitiful than other mendicants, so that you’ll get more donations, but you still can’t choose.
I’ve known a number of people who have “lived by faith” and it’s looked like that. Heck, I’ve done it myself.
But that principle is only true for beggars. It’s only true for people who have no provision themselves, who must depend on the generosity of others for their food and drink and the roof over their head. It’s true for slaves, too: a slave only gets what his master gives him.
In fact, it works as a test. If I hold the perspective that I’m stuck with whatever someone else will give to me, then that’s a good indication that I consider myself a beggar or a slave. If I believe that the only way that I’ll ever be provided for is if I can persuade other people to provide for me, then that says that I see myself as a beggar.
And of course, that suggests that some of the TV preachers – those who are regularly asking for money – have the heart of a beggar inside them.
There are alternatives, of course. Being a beggar isn’t the only choice before us.
We could choose the Older Brother Syndrome: “I have to work for anything I’m going to get.” We all know (heck, some of us ARE) people who expect that nobody else will provide for them, so if it’s going to happen, they’ve got to make it happen. But this isn’t the choice I want to recommend.
I think the place we need to get to is the place of sonship. Galatians 4:7 says, “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” We are not beggars, not slaves, and not even employees, working hard to provide for ourselves.
We’re heirs to the Kingdom. And as heirs, the wealth of the Kingdom is ours to use for the purposes of the Kingdom. (A son of the Kingdom doesn’t spend the Kingdom’s wealth on his own pleasures, but provision for the sons and daughters is a major purpose of the Kingdom’s wealth.)
That is not to say that we never work. Sons of the Kingdom work! We just don’t work in order to be fed. We work to administrate the Kingdom. In fact, Paul indicated that work is a principle of the Kingdom: “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10) And this is not just talking about “ministry work.” Paul’s own example was building tents for a nomadic people (Acts 18:3).
And of course, there’s the difference between theory and practice. There’s the minor detail that, as Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So there will be a correlation between how much we’re in touch with the Kingdom and our ability to draw provision from that Kingdom to this world.
Beggars can’t be choosers. But sons are required to choose.