How to Get Rich

A fable is told in India of a poor beggar who lived in a state ruled by a maharaja. The beggar had no home but slept on a mat in a homeless shelter. On frigid evenings he covered himself with a treasured collection of tattered rags. Having no means of earning a livelihood other than begging, he ventured out every morning. He would sit by the sidewalk with his beggar’s bowl as passersby threw some grains of rice or copper coins his way. Usually he got enough rice for two meals a day. When he hit the jackpot, he’d also score enough money to buy sticks for a fire and a few vegetables, fish or dhal for curry.

One day he heard that the maharaja would be coming his way on the following day. The beggar’s spirit soared, for he reasoned, “The maharaja will not give me a handful of rice or a copper coin, but nothing less than gold.” The next day he awaited the maharaja’s arrival. All day he blistered in the sun, anticipating his good fortune. At sunset, the regal chariot arrived.

Stepping into the road, the beggar brought the chariot to a standstill. He approached the maharaja and begged for alms. Instead of giving him gold, however, the maharaja extended his hands and asked the beggar to give him something!

Extremely disappointed that a wealthy ruler would filch from the poor, he counted five grains of rice from his bowl and placed them angrily in the hands of the maharaja. “Thank you,” said the ruler and continued his journey.

With a sore heart, the beggar returned to the shelter, took out his winnowing fan and began to clean his rice for supper. As he did so, a small glittering object attracted his attention. Picking it up, he saw that it was a grain of gold. Laying it carefully to one side, he went on winnowing until he found another glittering golden grain, then another.

That’s when the truth hit him. Five grains of rice given to the maharaja had brought him in return five grains of gold. “What a fool I was!” he exclaimed. “If I had known, I’d have given it all to him.”

Jesus once taught a similar parable when he urged his followers to invest in the treasures of heaven rather than earth. Jesus reasoned that worldly treasures are easily swiped by moths or rust or enterprising thieves. In contrast, heavenly treasures will always yield a profitable return—if not in this world, certainly in the next.

So why not make a risky deposit today? Give lavishly. Serve wholeheartedly. Love generously. Give away your best gold. But don’t worry. Someday it will all come back to you.

December 01, 2003 / Fresh Start

Karl Haffner writes from College Place, Washington, where he serves as senior pastor of the Walla Walla College Church.