The man who gave everything to God

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

18th Sunday in ordinary times

A story is told of a very wealthy man who had the relentless desire to possess the stone of great price from God, no matter the cost. And so, one bright day he came to God.

“God,” he said, “I want to buy the stone of great price from you. How much does it cost?” And God answered, “Well, it costs so much. How much do you have, anyway?” The man said, “I'm rich, you see. I have plenty of money in the bank and many possessions. I'll give them all to you.” He left in a hurry. He went straight to the bank and withdrew his money. Then, he sold all his properties including his house and lot. A few days later he was back before God.

“Here, God, are all my possessions, my wealth. They are yours,” the man enthusiastically said to God. “Now can I have the stone of great price?” But God said, “Oh no. I did not tell you I would give you the stone if you gave me all your possessions. Now tell me what else you have.” The man said in disgust, “Well, God, I have given you all my possessions. Don't you see I have no more left. Perhaps the only thing that is left to me now is my own family.” And God was quick to answer, “Okay, I want them.” The man was speechless. He did not expect God could be that insensitive as to demand even his only family. He left very sad and with a heavy heart.

But wanting the stone desperately, the man returned after a week with the family he loved and cared for. “Here's my family, God,” the man spoke sadly. “Now, where's the stone?” But God said, “No, I cannot give you the stone. What you have given me is not enough.” “What?” the man shouted in disbelief. “Look God,” the man explained, “I have given you my possessions, my family, everything I have. There is no more left for me except my freedom.” And God said, “Well, I want that too.” The man's face dropped and he said, “It's too much for me, God, to give you my freedom. If I give it to you I will be nothing.” And God answered, “Well, it's you who are interested. It's up to you. I'm not going to force you.”

The man left without saying a word. And for several days and nights nothing was heard of him. Then, one day, he found himself again before God. “Okay, God, I am surrendering my freedom to you,” he said, his voice cracking and tears falling. God was satisfied and He gave the man the stone of great price. But to his great surprise, God also returned to him his possessions, his family and his freedom. “Here,” God said tenderly, “you can use them. But remember, my friend, they are mine.”

Contrast this story with the parable of the rich man who had a bountiful harvest (Lk. 12:13–21) as found in today's gospel. He wondered what to do with it. He decided to tear down his barns and build larger ones in which to store his grains and other goods. Then he began his retirement to enjoy them fully; only to be told by God soon after that he would die that same evening. Jesus concluded the parable with the words, “Thus will it be for the one who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich in what matters to God.”

This parable reinforces what Jesus said earlier to someone who asked Him to tell his brother to share their inheritance with him. Jesus refused and instead focussed on the reason why they quarreled over their inheritance: “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions.” If people remove greed from their hearts and seek only the things which matter to God, then they would have no need of Jesus to settle their differences over earthly goods.

It was when the rich man in our story thought that he had given everything to God to be used as He wished that he got everything back from God. On the other hand, it was at the moment the rich man in the parable thought that he had everything for an easy retirement that he lost everything. The rich man in the story learned what the rich man in the parable never learned: that the more he gave of what he had to others, the more he got back in return.

Our possessions are God's. Thus they are neither for our needs alone nor are they to be used with absolute freedom. Rather, their use has a social dimension: we are to share them with those in need. So in this regard, we are just God's stewards of His possessions.

The rich man in the parable would have been better off if he shared his abundant harvest with his farm workers who helped produce the harvest. For they, too, had their needs. But because of his greed, he did not do so and thus God took everything away from him with his sudden death. In contrast to the man in our story, he never learned what possessions were for — not to be clung to for one's exclusive use but to be shared with others in need — to his eternal loss.