I Do Not Come with Empty Hands

I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
I’ve filled them with the best of me
My skill, my love, my everything
These are the things I gladly give to prove to you my worth
I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
I see my glory in the distance
My penance and my salvation
These are the things for which I strive to prove I am enough
I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
The King of Life requires payment
In gifts, in labor, in piety
These are the things I gladly bring to prove that I belong
This King deserves the best of me
my skills and gifts
my offering
I take upon myself the noble task to fashion him the best
I labor long, pouring all of me into my solemn work
By the skill of my hand, I create things of surpassing beauty:
A crown that shines for all to see - the envy of the world
Rings fit only for a king - unrivaled in shape or form
A throne from which to govern the land - exalted above all others

I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
I bring my gifts before the king
With pretension and self-satisfaction
These are the things I proudly offer to prove that I am good
And then I see His face.
His eyes remove all doubt.
These things my vanity has made are not what He requires.
“Child, move close to me.”
He beckons me to come.
“Child, I will accept your gifts though they are not what you need or understand.
You have fashioned them for your own glory, to curry favor, yet the cost is so much more.”
He beckons me closer still.
“Dear one, come, place your crown upon my head, your rings upon my hands.
Take me to the throne you have made and I will use it for a while.”
I move towards Him, knowing my gifts are woefully insufficient.
I take the crown, which had filled me with such pride, and I place it on His glorious head.
Confusion settles as I see the blood trickle down his noble face.
Yet I push it down even more, forcing each thorn deeper still.
The blood shines out for all to see, the scarlet price exacted.
I take His hands with my own and move to place the rings.
Instead of rings, I find only nails, long and sharp and formed with malice.
Shaking my head, I lie to myself that this had not been my purpose.
I place the nails upon His wrists and drive them through His flesh.
The vile accoutrements created with selfish pride decorate His pure and guiltless hands.
The nails now pierce His holy flesh and pin Him to the wood.
I lift Him up for all to see, enthroned on high.
It is clear the throne is crudely made, a sign my skills were less than I imagined, so I place a sign to indicate
   His noble and kingly position.
I back away to admire my work and to see all that my great toiling has accomplished.
I see my Lord nailed to a cross, a cross of my own making.
My efforts and my righteousness are nothing more than filth.
I’ve poured the very heart of me into my work, and empty it has returned.

I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
They are full of rage and lust, greed and pride
They are all of me and all that I can offer to prove I am deserving
I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
They cling to hell and defiant sin
They're filled with guilt and eternal death for that is what they crave
I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
I bring nothing of worth to the Lord of All
I am destitute and ruined

The King is Dead!
God made flesh - alone and entombed.
"Oh death and grave, you have had your hour
But now your time is done
I tarried here a little while
For my WORD is always true
Yet you're much too weak and impotent
To hold me in your grasp
Your rule has ended and your power is gone
For I have swallowed you in victory
And now I make all things new!"

I see Him now, ascended and mighty
the crown, the nails, and cross are broken and defeated
He has conquered them and so much more
He faced down death and won the war
He is the Lord of life and the Lord of all and all of creation rests in His hands.
“Child, move closer to me.”
He beckons me to come.
“Dear child, move closer still.”
He looks at me with eyes of love, a look that in my shame and brokenness I cannot return.
“My dear child, look and see the works of your hands
all the things your skills have wrought.
Are they enough?
Have you proven your worth with all your vain grasping?”
I have no reply.
“Oh dear one, can you not see? Will you not accept the truth?
I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
I’ve filled them with my everything
My love and forgiveness, redemption and grace
These are the things I gladly offer to any who believe.”
My legs give out; I fall to my knees,
overwhelmed in the presence of such grace and mercy.
I humbly reach and He takes my hands, and fills them with His great love.
I do not come with empty hands
My hands were never empty
My hands, which had been filled with nothing good
Cling only to my Lord. The very Way, the Truth, the Life
I cling to Christ alone

Phill Lytle

I love Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation, etc...

6 thoughts on “I Do Not Come with Empty Hands

  • April 3, 2019 at 8:42 am

    The more I read, the deeper and more powerful it became. Theology expressed in poetry. Good, good REFLECTIONS. Thank you so much. The comparisons, the contrasts. The centrality of the cross. Not everyone will be moved by it like some of us are, but those who relate to poetry (and theology) will. Love you, son.

    • April 3, 2019 at 9:22 am

      Thank you, dad. Love you too.

  • April 4, 2019 at 7:57 am

    WOW!! What a gift you have, Phill!! Such a pleasure to read your poem and a great reminder of how empty all of our efforts are in trying to earn, gain, prove, etc….I wish you could publish it for a wider audience!! I will def be sharing this one with friends!!

    • April 4, 2019 at 8:05 am

      Thanks, Debbi!

  • April 5, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    I like it! I was anticipating where you were going with it as I read, at least hoping it would go in that direction.

  • April 3, 2021 at 11:28 am

    Thank you for sharing this powerful poem again with us all. Our sinfulness and selfishness. His purity and perfection. His love that draws us.


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