I want to tell you a story from
one of the best story-tellers ever—
the great Russian writer and Christian convert.
The title of this story:
“How much land does a man need?”
This is a story is about Paul—
a simple man—
who lived a simple life
as a tenant farmer.
He and his wife were happy
living on a farm out in country.
One day Paul overhears his wife and
his sister-in-law debating which life was better—
a life out in the country—
on a farm—or life in the city.
And as Paul’s wife and sister in-law debate
about which life is better—
Paul starts to think about his life in the country—
and how much better it would be if
if he just owned a lot of land.
If only he had a lot of land—
he would have nothing to fear—
not even the devil would he fear.
Well, little did Paul know that the devil
was listening in to all of this.
So the devil started tempting Paul—
“What if you had more land?”—
“What if you had more land?”
A short time later,
a landlady in the country village
decides to sell some land.
There was a frenzy among the country folk
on who could put the money
together to buy her land.
Well, Paul scraped enough money together
to purchase her small parcel of land.
And Paul worked his land hard
and raised his standard of living.
But with the additional money—
Paul become more and more
possessive with his land—
he started getting into fights
with his neighbors.
All of this tension makes him decide to
move his family to another community where
if only he could only get more land—
and live in peace.
So, Paul moves to a new community—
buys some land and rents some more land—
and builds up a small fortune
with his land and hard work.
But if he just had some more land—
his own land—
and not having to rent other people’s land.
If he didn’t have to rent any land
he could be completely self-sufficient—
He wouldn’t even fear the devil.
Well Paul hears about an interesting land
deal from a local family—
the Brookings family.
So he goes to meet with the Brookings—
and they treat him like a long lost relative—
he’s just the kind of person they
would want to sell their land to.
And here’s the deal they offered Paul—
it’s the same deal they offered everybody.
The price would be a $1000 per day—
$1000 per day.
Paul didn’t understand.
What did they mean by $1000 per day?
Well, for $1000,
Paul could walk around as large of
an area of land as he could—
starting at daybreak and ending at sunset.
As much land as he could walk around,
marking it by digging a hole—
at the end of the day—
all that land would be all his.
The only condition was that he
had to be at the place he started
if he was late—
he’d lose his $1000 dollars.
Paul couldn’t believe what he heard—
What a deal!!!!
He shook on it immediately.
That night Paul didn’t sleep a wink—
figuring how many miles he
could walk from sun up to sunset—
If he had all that land . . .
Paul rose early in the morning to
be sure and get their right at sunrise.
He handed the Brookings—
who were in an exceptionally good mood—
$1000 and off he went.
He stopped to dig his first hole to mark
off his land after about a thousand yards.
It was a good start,
he quickened his pace—
and dug another hole—and then another.
As Paul picked up the pace—
And as the day went on—
Paul began to sweat a little more and
pant a little heavier.
But he plowed on, digging holes—
making as wide a rectangle of land as he could.
As the sun started to make it’s downward
trajectory for the day—
his feet were cut and bruised—
his breathing a little faster and shallower—
his heart ponding and pounding and pounding.
The sun was really falling now—
his fear of being late made his
breathing even more difficult—
But he had to move on—
“Faster, Paul, faster,” he told himself.
As it was turning dark—
with just a sliver a sun left—
Paul had made it back.
Now all the he had walked around would be his.
The head of the Brookings clan
was there waiting for him—
laughing a most sinister laugh—
they had been through all of this before.
And then Paul fell forward—
unable to be revived—
blood flowing from his mouth and nose—
he had run and dug himself to death—.
When Paul was buried—
His servant thought that now
he has just as much land as he needs—
six feet from his head down to his toes—
and six feet down.
Tolstoy’s wonderful story reveals to us
what we already know—
that money and possessions can do
strange things to us—
just like the story of the
rich young man in the Gospel today.
“What must I do to have eternal life?”
he asks Jesus.
Live the commandments Jesus tells him.
“I already do that.”
“You lack just one thing,” Jesus tells him—
“Go sell what you—
give it to the poor—
and follow me!!!
follow me, your Messiah.”
And the rich man went away sad because
he had many possessions.
A sad, sad story—
even sadder than Tolstoy’s story because
this rich young man had a
personal encounter with Jesus.
What did this rich man get so wrong?
First, he didn’t realize that all that he
had didn’t really belong to him—
it all belonged to God.
Everything good comes from God—
and God has never transferred
ownership over to us.
Psalm 24 sings out to all:
“The world and all in it belongs to the Lord;
the earth and all who live on it are His.” (Psalm 24:1)
It’s true isn’t—
think about it—
in the end, God gets it all back–
it was God’s in the beginning and it will be God’s in the end.
Everything we have—
things lining up just right—
all part of God’s Providence.
We’re just stewards—
caretakers of what God has given us—
given to us to build up His Kingdom.
When we understand this concept—
Then the question changes from:
“What does God want me to do with my money?”
To: “What does God want me to do with His money.”
The rich young man really didn’t get this concept—
and he went away sad.
And an even bigger concept he got wrong—
Is that God—Jesus—
is all about us.
Jesus is love and can only love—
So Jesus is always—always offering
us a better way to live—
a more fulfilling way to live—
in union with Him and His mission.
Following Jesus—Being with Jesus—
And being part of His plan of salvation—
for us and for everybody else.
That’s what brings true joy and fulfillment.
Anything less is to refuse our dignity—
Anything less is to deny our destiny.
Jesus is all about us—
and anyone who lays aside his own plans
and follows Jesus—
will receive infinitely more—
in this age—
and in the age to come.
Holy Spirit 10/13-14/2018