by Tim O'Hearn
A story is told of a man who was having trouble making a living in England. He heard that there were opportunities to make a fortune in Africa, so he sailed there, leaving his family at home. When he got to the place in Africa he was to live he found that the local people had no cattle. They had to pay huge amounts for milk and cheese to be imported from far away. He had a herd of cows sent to him from home, and began selling dairy products. Soon his dairy was making money, and he could pay off the debt for the cattle. Within a couple of years he was the wealthiest man in the country. He decided it was time to go home to England and his family. He packed his few personal belongings and hired a ship, which he loaded with his wealth&0151;milk and cheeses. Before he could leave one man offered to buy his whole supply of dairy products. The rich man refused, since this was the wealth he was taking home. After some negotiation, though, he finally relented. He gave the man a few cheeses and a small portion of the milk in return for a handful of the stones that were so plentiful in that country. By the time his sailing ship reached London several weeks later it could be smelled from a great distance. The milk had spoiled and the cheeses were moldy. In London, dairy products were plentiful and nobody would buy his spoiled product. All he had left of the wealth he had gained in Africa was a handful of rocks that had been so plentiful where he had been that they were practically worthless. In London, however, diamonds and rubies and sapphires were so rare that he was able to sell his worthless handful of stones and live comfortably, if not luxuriously, the rest of his life.
We hear this story and think how foolish this man was. Even if the milk had kept, did he really expect it to be a source of wealth at home? Had he forgotten what “civilized” people considered valuable? He had been away from home too long to remember what it was like there. Why did he not load the ship with cheap stones and become the richest man in England?
We think such things of this man in the story, but we fail to notice the log in our own eyes. Too often we are like this man. We have become so used to what is valuable in this foreign land where we live, called earth, that we have forgotten what will be valuable when we go home at the end of life. Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:19-21) He could just as easily have said that where your heart is, that will determine what you consider treasure.
We think of money and prestige as wealth, when they will spoil like milk when we die. We will be judged not by the size of our bank account but by the size of our heart. When we face the judge he will not ask how we made our money, but whether we fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and assisted those who are sick or in prison. Paul tells us we are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (Eph 2:10) Such mitzvos (good works) are so easy to do that we forget they are the currency of heaven.