A proficient painter once sought to portray the Bible’s “prodigal son” in a pastel painting. He searched every asylum, prison, and soup kitchen to find a man ragged enough to embody the prodigal, but he was unsuccessful. One day, as he was walking home he encountered a poor beggar curled up on the street. The man was disheveled, dirty, and destitute—the ideal candidate for the painting. The artist approached him and offered payment in exchange for being painted as a model, and the beggar agreed.
When the day came, a clean-shaven man in a crisp suit and tie stood in the studio. When the artist asked who he was, the stranger reminded him, “You made an appointment with me, remember?” “Sir, I’ve never seen you before in my life,” replied the painter. “Yes, it’s me!” said the man. “You wanted me to meet you here at ten o’clock!” To which the painter explained, “You must be mistaken; I was to see a beggar here at this hour.” “I am he!” said the man, “I just thought I would dress myself up a bit before I got painted.” And the painter said, “No, no, no! I didn’t want you dressed up and perfect; I wanted you just as you were.”1
And the same can be said of the God who painted the constellations upon the canvas of the heavens. God does not command us to “clean up” and make ourselves presentable before we approach Him. He does not expect us to come to Him adorned in the polished suit of religious works. The Lord doesn’t want you to be embellished in religious makeup or doused in the perfume of piety. He calls you to come to Him just as you are, as a bankrupt beggar in need of the riches found in Christ Jesus.
We have all wallowed like swine in the mire of iniquity, and we reek of sin’s stench. Even so, God urges us to come to Him in repentance to be washed in Christ’s blood and clothed in His robes of white (cf. Luke 15:15-22; Revelation 3:5). Our account of righteousness doesn’t contain a penny of God-glorifying works, either (Matthew 5:3). And yet, Jesus calls us to bring Him an empty cup so that He may fill it with the “unsearchable riches” of His gospel (Ephesians 3:8). The Lord’s invitation to all spiritual beggars is this: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price . . . Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:1, 6-7).
- D. L. Moody was the first to tell this story.
Bible Gleanings is a widely-read weekend devotional column, written for the Murray Ledger & Times in Calloway County, Kentucky.
Brandon is the founder and main contributor to Brandon’s Desk, the blog with biblical resources from his ministry. He is proud to be the pastor of the family of believers at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Murray, Kentucky. He and his wife Dakota live there with their three dogs, Susie (Jack Russell), Aries (English Shepherd), and Dot (Bluetick Beagle).