Whenever I think of this, I am reminded of a story that the famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy once wrote about a successful peasant farmer who was not satisfied with his lot. He too wanted more of everything.
One day he received a novel offer. For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day. The only catch in the deal was that he had to be back at his starting point by sundown.
Early the next morning he started out walking at a fast pace. By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground.
Well into the afternoon he realized that his greed had taken him far from the starting point. He quickened his pace and as the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run, knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown the opportunity to become an even bigger landholder would be lost.
As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, his heart pounding, he called upon every bit of strength left in his body and staggered across the line just before the sun disappeared. He immediately collapsed, blood streaming from his mouth. In a few minutes he was dead.
Afterwards, his servants dug a grave. It was not much over six feet long and three feet wide. The title of Tolstoy's story was: “How Much Land Does a Man Need”?
Jesus Christ also has a lot to say to us about the dangers of greed. Consider the teachings in His famed “Sermon on the Mount” in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew chapters 5-7.
But this is not the only place He cautions against cupidity. He warns His disciples not to be like the Rich young Ruler who went away saddened by Jesus’ challenge to sell all he had because his love for his many possessions was interfering with his pursuit of eternal life (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-29).
Elsewhere, in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 12, verses 13-21), He relates “The Parable of the Rich Fool”:
13Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14But Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed Me judge or executor between you?” 15And He said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
16Then He told them a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced an abundance. 17So he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, since I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and will build bigger ones, and there I will store up all my grain and my goods. 19Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!”’
20But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’ 21This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”
In light of these things, I echo Tolstoy’s piercing question... “Just how much does a person really need to possess in this world?” The answer is likely to be: “Far less than we are initially inclined to think!”
STORY SOURCE: Tolstoy’s story is available widely online. See for instance:
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/6157/6157-h/6157-h.htm. Scroll down to a little beyond halfway down the page.
NOTE: My immediate source for this story is the November, 1991 print edition of Bits & Pieces Magazine.
SEE ALSO: https://bitsandpieces.biz/; and https://motivateandinspire.com/.
SCRIPTURE SOURCES: https://biblehub.com/context/matthew/19-16.htm;