The old man sat in his simple room looking at the bag of gold. “Use it however you want,” the rich young fellow had said. “I feel I need to give it to someone, and I have no idea who. I think you may know.”
The old man was renowned for his wisdom and his kindness. He had never sought attention or fame. He lived simply. He gave away whatever he didn’t need, and he needed very little.
And here was a bag of gold, enough to buy the entire town. At least.
He thought of a plan. He divided up the money, and then he set out to find three young men.
“I believe you’re about to go and seek your fortune,” said the wise, old man to the first young man. “I want to make you an offer.”
“What? Make it snappy!” said the young man.
“I have here a bag of gold. It’s quite a considerable amount of money. I will give you a choice. Either I’ll give you this bag of gold, or I will give you a wise saying that will help you as you seek your fortune.”
“Give me the gold, if you have any,” said the first young man.
So the wise, old man handed the young man a small bag of gold. The young man was delighted with his good fortune. He went on his way, richer than he had ever imagined he would be.
“I will offer you a choice,” said the wise man to the second young man. “A wise saying to help you live a full life, or this bag of gold.”
“How much gold is there?” asked the second young man. “Can I get a sample of your wise advice?”
“This bag is filled with gold coins,” said the wise, old man. “And no, you must choose between the gold and the saying. I didn’t say it would be advice.”
The second young man was a thoughtful sort, and he had heard of the famous wise man. “I can always earn money,” he said, “I’ll take the wise saying.”
“You have within you a gift that can connect you with the universe,” said the wise, old man.
“Is that all?” asked the young man. “I should have taken the gold. It wasn’t a fair test.”
“What has fairness to do with it?” asked the wise, old man. “It’s my gold. I can give it or not as I choose. Here! I’ll give you the gold as well.”
The young man went on his way, still fuming. He had the saying and he had the gold, but somehow he felt cheated.
“I will give you a choice,” said the wise, old man to the third young man. “You may either have this bag of gold, or you may have a wise saying that will help you live a full life.”
“I’ll take the wise saying,” said the third young man.
“You don’t care how much gold I’m offering you?” asked the wise, old man.
“Not really,” said the third young man. “I’m not asking for it.”
“Very well, then. Here is the saying: ‘You have within you a gift that can connect you with the universe.'”
The third young man looked thoughtful. “Thank you,” he said. Then he started on his way.
“Here,” said the wise, old man. “I have no use for this. Take the gold as well.”
Some years passed, and the wise, old man heard news of the young men he had encountered.
The first young man went to the nearest city. He lived well on the gold. In fact, he could have lived for many years. But within the first year he invested the gold in a trading caravan that promised enormous profit.
The caravan was lost and never heard from again. The young man ended up penniless and eventually took his own life.
The second young man was very much disturbed by the saying given him by the wise, old man. He thought and thought about it, but he couldn’t see any value in it. Wise sayings should be easy to understand and put into practice! He thought the test had been unfair, and even though he was rich beyond his wildest dreams, he was angry, resentful, and very difficult to get along with.
His belief that the world was essentially unfair, setting traps for unsuspecting young men and treating them unjustly led him into conflict with others. He eventually killed someone in a drunken rage, a person who had treated him unfairly, and he ended up in the king’s dungeon.
The third young man was delighted that he had a gift within him. He wasn’t quite sure what it meant to connect with the universe, but he set out to discover what that gift might be. Each time he discovered something that appeared to be a gift he set to work on it to see whether it would help him connect with the universe. He wanted to discover what that would be like.
Over the years he found that he had many gifts, and as he put his best effort into developing every gift he discovered, he found he could do many things. He spent the gold very carefully, living on what he earned, and using it mostly to help him in his quest as well as to help others.
He became quite popular and well liked. He didn’t try to be popular, but there were so many people he had helped or taught, or even just served well when he worked.
Many years later he was sitting in a bar listening to the talk of the men and women from the caravan route. They told the story of a wise man who had a talent for helping people with his knowledge and his money. He recognized the story. It was his. But the speaker attributed it to someone in a town he had never heard of in a country he couldn’t have placed on a map.
“… connect you with the universe.” He suddenly realized just how connected he had become.
He chose to bring his story to the wise, old man himself.
“What do you think of the results of your experiment?” he asked.
Now you, reader, what do you think?
The LORD’s judgments are true.
All of these are righteous!
10 They are more desirable than gold—
than tons of pure gold!— (Psalm 19:9b-10a, CEB)