Thou Art Wretched and Miserable


“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: -Rev. 3:17

The story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

I always wanted to write that line that “Dragnet” made famous. It seems appropriate for this commentary. Although the names have NOT been changed, the story IS true.

This one will be a little different for me. If you are a regular reader of my commentaries you know that I am never shy about giving my opinion. In fact, as my children have told me a number of times, “Dad, you always think you are right.”

No kidding. Is it somehow nobler for one to always think he is wrong? I say what I think, and it is usually others that my words make blink.

But in a deviation from my normal “opinion” commentary, today I would like to relate to you a story from a recent event in my life. I will let you be the judge of what the lesson was, and what it was that the Lord wanted me to learn.

Here is my story.

Last Friday, New Year’s Eve-day, I joined with some of my friends in out-reach to the homeless on the streets of Columbus, Ohio. Although in the past, working with the homeless had been a regular part of our ministry, I am ashamed to admit that I had not worked with them in a couple of years. This seemed like another great opportunity to live out my faith.

Homeless ministry is interesting. Despite what you might think, most homeless are not hungry because there are many places where they can go to get meals. In fact, they are somewhat selective in what foods they take, preferring propane canisters to heat their stoves over bread and pastries.

The cold, and the addictions, are their greatest opponents. All of them have heard the Gospel, most, in fact, have repeated the “sinner’s prayer”, but very little evidence that they “know Jesus” is on display.

Working with the street-poor is dirty business. Most are addicted, many are poorly-educated, veterans are in the majority, and are totally dependant on handouts. In reality, a great majority would rather be homeless than accept responsibility for their lives. They would rather live under a bridge than have a mortgage and other financial demands.

They have traded their security for a tent, the trap of materialism for the freedom of homelessness.

Sometimes I leave there wondering who really is the one who is enslaved…

While moving from homeless camp to homeless camp last Friday, we found ourselves travelling down Broad Street…the main east to west artery in downtown Columbus. Driving slowly, looking for the helpless, my eyes lasered-on two obviously drunken men sitting against a bombed-out red-brick business.

“Hey! Are you guys hungry?” I bellowed out my car window. They stumbled to their feet, clutching their malt-liquor, and jay-walked across the street towards our free hand-outs. My friend, Pastor Bill, climbed out first and walked straight towards one of the men.

The next thing I knew, Bill has hugging this guy as the vagrant sobbed, slobbering all over Pastor Bill as snot dribbled out of his nose onto Bill’s tan Carhartt jacket. I got out and sauntered up to the two, as the drunken man slurred some drunken-drivel all over Bill’s chest.

“Why Donald, what the heck has happened to you?” Bill spoke as if he recognized this low-life. Upon closer inspection I recognized “Donald” as a thirty-something young man who had done street ministry with us year’s ago. A one-time homeless man who had found Jesus, Donald had returned to lead others out of the clutches of sin. He had a powerful testimony, and was a powerful preacher of the Gospel…at least the last time I had seen him. As he slobbered all over Bill, my eyes fell to the Bible that Donald was clutching in his hands.

“Wow,” I thought to myself. What an abomination before the Lord…a brewsky in one hand and a Bible in the other. It was all I could do to keep from walking away.

But I didn’t. I don’t know why, because this drunken ex-preacher was about all I could take. But

I stayed to support my friend, Pastor Bill.

“Please pray for me Pastor Bill.” Donald wailed. “Please…I have done some terrible things.”

I wanted to smack him. How dare this man carry a Bible and mock our Lord. Didn’t he know that he was making a mockery of Christianity?

“No Donald. I am not going to pray for you.” Pastor Bill said. “YOU pray for you and the rest of us will agree with your prayer. The Lord needs to hear it out of YOUR mouth.”

Donald started sobbing harder, as he lay down his Miller tall-boy and clutched his black Bible against his tell-tale heart.

For the next ten minutes this slobbering drunk prayed the Word. Now, please understand what I am saying. From memory, this inebriated Christian (is that even possible) opened his mouth and spoke God’s Word with clarity and purpose. It was one of the most amazing things I had ever witnessed. I thought it was impossible for the Holy Spirit to indwell an unclean vessel.

It shook what I believed. I had always been taught that the Holy Spirit would not co-exist with another spirit…and a spirit of addiction was certainly controlling Donald’s life. As I walked towards the car a voice entered my mind. Not audible, mind you, but a real thought nonetheless.

“That’s what you look like to me; In fact, that is what most of you preachers look like to me. You are amazed that a drunk can speak the Word like that, but that is because you don’t realize what you look like to me. You watch this staggering drunk quoting from the Scriptures and you are appalled at how blasphemous it all seems to you.”

“But that is how you look to me…all of you…wretched and miserable…thinking you are rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing. You all look like drunks to me.”

“Me?” I thought to myself. “I look like that?”

“Yep,” returned the thought. “You stand up and preach the Word, but all of the while you are drunk with pride. Others are drunk with greed, or power, or gluttony, or envy, or cowardice, and week after week they stand in the pulpit and claim to speak for God. But you all look the same to me…wretched…miserable…poor…blind…naked.”

“What makes you think you are better than Donald? Do you really think a drunken preacher is less holy than a prideful preacher? Believe me; God has always used asses…”

For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

I don’t know what happened to Donald. I don’t understand how that demon of alcohol could get such a death-grip on him. But I do know that what I heard coming out of Donald on Broad Street last Friday was a gift. Just like me, and just like you, Donald will give an account to God for what he did with the gift, but what was flowing out of that drunken man was the evidence that the gift is irrevocable…God gave it and he isn’t taking it back.

Your gift…my gift…Donald’s gift…they do not belong to the individual. My gift is not my gift; it is a gift that God has given to the body, and for whatever reason He has chosen to package the gift in my wretched flesh.

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” -Rev. 3:19-22

…and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.

I’m sorry Donald for considering your sin worse than mine; and I am sorry Jesus for thinking that my gift was all my own doing.


By Coach Dave Daubenmire

Coach Dave Daubenmire, founder and President of Pass The Salt Ministries and Minutemen United, is host of the high octane Pass The Salt radio show heard in Columbus, Ohio.

In 1999 Coach Daubenmire was sued by the ACLU for praying with his teams while coaching high school in Ohio. He now spends his energy fighting for Christian principles in the public domain.

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