The Holy Shoemaker

What does it mean to be holy?

People can have very strange ideas about holiness. What does it mean to be holy? Here is a story that may illustrate this.

Back in the days of the early church, there was a great man called Antony. He was one of the first of the hermits who lived alone in the Egyptian desert. He devoted himself to fasting, praying, and studying the Scriptures. One day, Antony heard a voice say to him: “Antony, you are not so holy a man as the poor shoemaker in Alexandria.” Intrigued, Antony went off to the city of Alexandria to seek out this shoemaker.

After a long search, he found a shoemaker's stall and a shoemaker – just a little old man, but with the love of God shining in his face. When the little shoemaker saw that none other than the great Antony was standing before him, he trembled and bowed. “Tell me,” said Antony, “how do you live and spend your time?”

“Well, sir,” he replied, ”I'm just a poor, humble, hard-working shoemaker. I have little time to think about things, and no ability to do anything great. I just live from day to day as God helps me. I get up at dawn. I pray for my family, my neighbours, my city, and myself. Then I get down to the hard work of the day.

“Then at evening, I shut down my stall, eat what little food I can afford, give thanks to God, and pray. Then I retire to sleep. By God's help I don't cheat my customers, and if I make a promise I try very hard to keep it. So I live, sir, trudging along my narrow little path day by day. And however dark things may sometimes seem, I never doubt that God will bring me at last into His everlasting light.”

The shoemaker finished; and the great Antony left, humbled by the poor shoemaker and his holy life.

We do not have to leave our ordinary life to be holy. Christ promises to make us holy where we are, if we trust Him as our Saviour. “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4 ).