I am happy to report that, after a lifetime of searching for that one influential story, I have finally found it in the exact form that it was related to me. I recount it here in its entirety. It is the story of...
Big Jim, as his friends called him, was sailing homeward. For three years he had lived a lonely life in the Klondike area of Alaska. His camp was located about 100 miles north of Dawson City. Jim was a prospector. He had gone to the Klondike with a fever for gold. After three years of washing sand out of the Klondike River, he had saved enough gold to weigh out $20,000. The gold was in a money belt tied around his waist.
As Jim looked over the railing of the ship and watched the boat plow through the water, his every thought was of home. As yet he had not decided just what he would do with all the money he would get when the gold dust was exchanged for dollars. Jim patted the heavy money belt about his waist. "Yep," he said aloud to himself, "it's all here."
Jim was running a risk carrying all this dust in the big money belt. But the risk would be worth the extra dollars he would get for selling in Seattle, Washington, rather than Fairbanks, Alaska. Then, too, Jim was not afraid of being robbed. He was big and strong; few men would ever dare to tackle Big Jim.
The trip had been very pleasant. In fact, Jim had enjoyed being with people. For three years he had lived alone, and the sight of people made him happy. On the trip Jim made friends with a little six year old girl. The two of them had become real friends.
Suddenly Jim was awakened from his thoughts by a loud scream. He felt the motors of the ship slacken their speed. Somebody yelled, "Man overboard." Jim looked over the rail, and there in the water he saw a little head bobbing on the surface. It was his little six year old friend. Without hesitating, Jim sprang into the water.
He splashed in the water near the girl. Only a few yards separated them. Big Jim tried to swim, but something held him back. It was the gold. He couldn't swim with all that gold dust tied around his waist. The weight held him back.
A decision had to be made. Jim must decide between the gold and the girl. Jim decided. He unbuckled the money belt, pulled it from around his waist, and let it go. His big hands then lunged for the girl. He had reached her in time. By now the lifeboat was being lowered from the steamer. Jim and his little friend stayed afloat until the boat reached them and they were pulled from the water.
When Jim handed the little girl to the crewmen in the lifeboat, he yelled out, "I lost the gold, but I saved a life."
Jim's little friend was important to him, and he was willing to pay a valuable price to save her life.
As simple as it is, this little story held me spellbound as little boy. Later, as I reflected on it, I came to see that it is clearly a beautiful picture of God's One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, and of just how much He loves you and me. He loves us so much that He gave up the riches of Heaven and dove down into this world to save us! That is how much we mean to Him!
Want to know more? Then I encourage you to read the three stories told by Jesus Himself in the fifteenth chapter of the New Testament of Luke. Then read the story of Nicodemus in the third chapter of the New Testament Gospel of John, where you will see how Jesus applies these stories to us. Do this and you will find out just how much God loves you!
STORY SOURCE: Black, Frank, The PAGE Manual: For Crusader Royal Ambassadors in Grade 4 (Memphis, TN: Brotherhood Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention), p. 16.
SCRIPTURE SOURCES: https://biblehub.com/bsb/luke/15.htm;