On beggars and followers of Jesus


The next quote comes from the very informative book ‘living on hope while living in Babylon‘, a book on Christian anarchism in the 20th century by Tripp York. The chapter is about Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day of the catholic worker movement, and it was quite an eye-opener about something which I’ve been trying  to figure out when studying Francis of Assisi.

Peter imagined that a recovery of the Christian vocation of voluntary poverty, accompanied by begging, was necessary for Christians to be able to see the God of the poor. Voluntary poverty has a rich history in the church and has mostly been associated with the religious (e.g., monks, nuns or priests). The giving away of all goods in an effort to follow Jesus in ones concern for the “least of these” has carried with it high esteem from the church hierarchy even though it s rarely practiced. What attracted both Peter and Dorothy to Francis was his ability to locate Christian virtue within the act of begging. Begging strips the beggar of the pride that accompanies self-sufficiency. Today one of our greatest concerns is that we will become a burden on our family, so we place our parents and our handicapped in homes in order to free us from their claims and to free l hem from having to claim us. Francis could not have imagined a greater sin. The longing for complete autonomy, from freedom of dependency, is contrary to the very image of which we are created. Being created in the image of the triune God requires that we participate in the sociality of our created natures. For Francis, begging reminds us how intertwined and interdependent we are on one another. But it does more than this. It becomes part of the story of salvation because it not only rescues us from pride, but affords others the opportunity to care one another. Begging is a form of gift-exchange that turns our eyes and our bodies back to the gift given by Jesus. As Jesus emptied himself for the sake of the world, we too empty ourselves. We become completely dispossessed so that we may become possessed by only God. Though we may not all be called to begging, we are called to gift-giving, and the witness of a Francis of Assisi or a Peter Maurin demands that we call into question our initial reactions to beggars.

I don’t know what to add, because this is very powerful stuff that I need to meditate on more, since it goes completely against the ways of our society. But it indeed is true that we are all interconnected, and that every ‘self-made-man’ relies on others… Hypermodern neoliberal individualism is just an illusion, we cannot live without each other, and we should not pretend that we make our own world.

Begging is something that is looked down upon, while stock market speculating and similar ways of making money out of money without doing anything constructive for others isn’t. For us as followers of Christ the inverse should be true!

I’ll close with the words of Jesus in Luke 6, that should be the very core of our Christian ethics, but most of the time they aren’t:

6:27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 6:28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 6:29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either. 6:30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away. 6:31 Treat others101 in the same way that you would want them to treat you.

6:32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 6:33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. 6:34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full. 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High,because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. 6:36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

what do you people think?

shalom

Bram

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3 responses to “On beggars and followers of Jesus

  1. I agree in part. I totally buy into the simple living idea. However, I don’t actually view begging as the ideal, as we can’t all be beggars. Someone out there has to earn money or produce food. I would like to think God can provide for us through growing our own food (as per the Garden of Eden). Peter Maurin was aware of this in his vision to teach city dwellers agrarianism and encourage a movement back-to-the-land through the establishment of rural farming communities.

    You may also be interested in this BBC blog post titled “Was Jesus an anarchist?”:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2011/05/was_jesus_an_anarchist.html

  2. I found your blog through the comments on Rachel Held Evans’ blog. Christian anarchy is something I have been very interested in. I get frustrated with ‘voting’ and all spolitical sides seem anti-kingdom in some way shape or form. I went through a Dorothy Day phase, where I couldn’t get enough of her. Her thinking resonnates with me, but as you said, it goes ‘against the ways of our society’. I couldn’t find anyone who would even want to discuss christian anarchy. The word anarchy scares us. Reading your post was refreshing. Do you ever read anything by Chesterton? I have attempted, but it’s pretty heavy reading for little me. 😉

    Glad I came across your blog,
    -Micky
    http://www.mickydewitt.com

    • I’m struggling with Christian anarchy, at best I can call myself a wannabe-anarchist probably. There are some interesting Christian anarchists on the internet (some stuff on jesusradicals.com is very interesting, some is too far out even for me…) Problem with anarchists is that they tend to be quite academic sometimes and over the head of a lot of people…

      I did read some stuff by Chesterton, and I even quoted him on my blog not that long ago. Never read a whole book though… I generally like him though!

      ps: I’m going to read more your blog later, it seems interesting…

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