Prince or Pauper

(Originally written in September, 1999)

His life had started out with such promise. His family was in the clothing business and had success in Italy and across Europe. He was a gentle and good-natured fellow. He was always willing to help someone in trouble and was sensitive to nature and the creation around him. Because of his “well to do” family and his native intelligence, he received a good education. Yet, now he stood before the city’s leaders and the interested crowd – stark naked. What started out so well had come to this humbling experience.

Years earlier his dreams of being a knight or a prince were dashed by the abuse of the father, who put him in chains in a dark closet. He admittedly had lived a conceited and frivolous life as the eldest son, but he had also served his country in battle and had spent time as a prisoner of war. He was now being sued publicly by his own father, who demanded the return of stolen property. Although the son had taken some of the clothing from the family business and sold it, he had given the proceeds to the poor. All he had left were the clothes on his back, which he now took off – all of them. Standing naked before the crowd, he modeled the dramatic turn that his life had taken. Recently, he had received a vision. He believed God had spoken personally to him and said, “Go repair my church that is in ruin.” He was now determined to trade a life of riches and travel for a destiny of poverty, solitude, and pain. This twenty-five year old young man’s name was Francisco, but you may know him as Francis.

Francis gathered young men around himself, men who would renounce their temporal goods and give their lives to serve the helpless. They would be “heralds of the great King of Heaven” and “announce the gospel of peace and conversion.” They would learn patience, endurance, humility, and obedience. They were reformers to a church that had lost its vision and needed renewal. Therefore, they proclaimed faith to unbelievers and new life to Christians. Francis had a passion for Christ when the church was still buried in tradition and ease.

Francis modeled service when he changed clothes with a beggar, kissed a leper, and stated that he himself was just a “poor miserable sinner”. Francis’ life exhibited what he proclaimed; he was slow to anger, swift to forgive, absorbed in contemplation, and constant in prayer. Above all else, he was an example of humility and simplicity. He was constantly breaking down barriers and forever reaching out in love. He did not want just to preach sermons on poverty; he wanted to illustrate the poverty that Christ took upon himself for us. Francis was not as much a person who prayed as he was an impersonation of prayer itself – a living sermon.

Pope Innocent remarked, “This is the pious and holy man by whom the church of God shall be restored.” Francis was the one who put Jesus Christ back into the center of the church and modeled a return to serving rather than being served. He lived only forty-six years. His ministry of just twenty-one years left us the Order of St. Francis, which has works all around the world. Today, nearly eight hundred years after Francis stood naked in the middle of the square of Assisi, his ministry still goes on. St. Francis of Assisi is said to have cautioned this followers, “preach Jesus, and only if necessary use words.”

Watching my actions,
Kent Humphreys

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”         Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV)

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About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

One Response to Prince or Pauper

  1. Cathy Westm says:

    Wonderful!

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