What if a homeless man was offered a home and rejected it? What if you were that homeless man? As you read this fictional story, place yourself in the homeless man’s shoes. Examine your spiritual life in the context of this allegory.
My Father is a King. He has a large stock of houses reserved for homeless people. He has asked me to go through the world spreading the news of these nice houses which are free to those who need and want them.
I am walking down the street of a city and meet a man sitting along the sidewalk with a pan setting out front. His clothes are rather ragged and practically filthy. His hair is untrimmed and grimy with the dirt of his existence. I call out to him, “Hi friend! How is your day?”
He turns his downcast eyes up to see who is calling on him now. “Well sir, if you put some change in that pan there I may be able to get a meal yet today.”
“But friend” I say, “I have something much better than that for you today. My Father sent me out here to tell you that He has a house for you!”
He looks at me a bit oddly. “Sir, you don’t understand. No one will hire me and I frankly can’t afford a house of any kind. Got any spare change?”
"But this house is rent-free, friend!” My excitement is contagious.
He perks up. “You’re saying I can live in this house without money?”
“None at all. My Father will even set you up with a new set of clothes!”
He looks down at his outfit. “You say new clothes? What’s wrong with these? You say I’d have to give up these clothes?”
“Well yes,” I stammer. “Why would you want to keep those filthy rags?’’
A look of fondness steals across his eyes. “Sir, these rags, as you call them, have served me very well. They have been with me a long time and are a part of who I am. I don’t know if I could give them up.”
“But you would get a whole new set of clothes - clean and white.”
“You did say that, didn’t you?” He nods his head thoughtfully. “Could I bring my friends along to this house?”
Now he caught me a bit off guard. After pondering a few seconds I replied, “Your friends haven’t been a good influence in your life. I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“But sir, they are the only friends I have.”
“Oh, you would have new friends,” I assured him. “They would be clean friends and wouldn’t tempt you by smoking, drugs, and drinking alcohol.”
“Drugs? Alcohol?” He looks at me incredulously. “They are my life! They help me forget all my troubles. I couldn’t live without them.”
“They are your trouble. As you move into your new house, we would help you break free from those habits.”
He groans, “I don’t think that would work for me. I’ve tried to quit before. It’s no use. And besides, what’s in it for you? Why do you want to give me this house?’’
My face breaks out in a big smile. “Well, we have a much better life than you. And we love you so much that we want to share this better life with you.”
“That’s obvious,” he smirks. “Living over there in those fancy houses. We have to live out here in the sun and rain, heat and cold; begging for our food; digging through the dumpsters and trash cans; and sleeping over heater vents to keep from freezing.”
“That’s why I want to give you this house from my Father! It will be just like the one I’m living in. Clean and warm. Just as “fancy” as mine. Do you want it?”
He contemplates that for a bit. “You do sound convincing. What do I have to do to live there?”
“You just have to move in. You will have to leave those dirty clothes outside the door along with your bad habits and your beggar friends. Those friends will only tempt you to come back out here to your old habits.”
“My friends? Don’t you care about them?”
“Oh yes. My Father has a house for each one of them. In fact, my Father would want you to spend your time telling homeless people about these houses. He wants to save them from their homeless lifestyles.”
He shakes his head sadly. “This all sounds too good to be true. Besides, these clothes, the drugs, and my friends have been with me for a long time. That’s too much to give up. And do you have any idea? My friends would laugh at me walking around out here in clean white clothes trying to preach to them. No, you are asking too much. Guess you’ll have to find someone else to give this house to. Got any spare change?”
I’m beginning to realize that this beggar is turning down this offer that could transform his life. I start pleading, “But friend, this house is for you. My Father has other houses for other people. And these things you don’t want to give up, we have better things for you. Just imagine the feel of clean clothes. Instead of a peaceful trance from your drugs, you can have a peaceful life and positive, encouraging friends. Surely you won’t turn this down!”
Now he is obviously annoyed. “Look, I’m not complaining. These have been working for me. Now get out of here and stop bothering me.”
I walked away saddened by what just transpired. This homeless man rejected so much to keep so little. He refused my Father’s light because he felt more comfortable in the darkness. Oh if he would only open his eyes and see the big picture.
This story of the homeless man describes our struggle to give up our filthy rags as mentioned in Isaiah 64:6. The righteousness in this verse refers to our good deeds outside of God’s saving grace (Rom 10:3). To be clear, our faith and service to God as a saved person is registered on our account books as righteousness (Rom 4:20-24; Gal 3:6; 2 Tim 4:8; Rom 6:16). This righteousness is not viewed as filthy rags to God but rather as “fine linen, clean and white” (Rev 19:8).
The devil convinces us that our lives are good enough. He says we can serve God and still keep some of our sin. His power of darkness is so strong because it feels comfortable to not have to change. If we can suppress the exposing truth of God, we can continue in our sin without guilt. Fortunately God’s truth is even stronger. It illuminates our lives and convicts us of our sins.
This homeless man’s drugs compare to any addictive sin which feeds the pleasure signals in our brain. This could be pornography, gluttony, tobacco, adultery, materialism, alcoholism, gossip or anything else that fits this category and draws you away from God. Our brains build highways to process the pleasure signals from these addictions and draws us back to them again and again. It takes a tremendous commitment to God’s power to break free. Again it is easier and more comfortable (short term) to stay in these habits.
The homeless man’s friends are anyone that relishes in the sins you enjoy and influences you to stay in your sin or fall back into that sin. These friends understand your fault and are not critical of your sin because they also are living with that sin. We could call them brothers in darkness. When you attempt to break free of that sin, they mock and entice you back. Why is that? If you recognize sin as sin, they are forced to look at their own lives with the new light you are shining into your life. This makes them uncomfortable and they will either recognize their need to change, or attempt to turn off your light by enticing you back into that darkness or cutting off communication with you. If you value their friendship above your relationship with God, you will invariably be drawn back into your sin. You need to be willing to cut free from earthly relationships to maintain your connection to God. Again this takes a tremendous commitment to God’s power. Those ties can be strong and the devil will use them to the utmost until you untie them.
Hopefully this story can give you a bigger picture of life. Perhaps it will shed light on your relationship with God. I encourage you to open up your heart before God and allow Him to shine His searchlight on its depths. Be willing to step out on the water when Jesus says “Come”. Be ready to sacrifice anything for something better. Remember that what God has to offer is always better. Temporary pain is preferred over permanent pain. Allow the master surgeon to cut into your life and remove any dark matter that His Word exposes.