A century ago Leo Tolstoy wrote about a greedy farmer in his tale, “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” This farmer never had enough and moved from town to town looking for greener pastures. On his journeys he heard rumors of a distant tribe that possessed more land than anyone could walk over in a year; and it was there for the taking. He went to investigate and found the rumors to be true. The farmer met the tribal chief who informed him that he could in fact have all the land he wanted.
“Pay a thousand rubles and begin walking in a circle,” the chief instructed. Everything within that circle, so long as the circle was completed by sundown, would be his. So early the next morning, the farmer began his acquisition of land. He began running, trying to make as large a circle as possible.
Late in the day the farmer began the desperate return trip. He ran with all his waning strength back to the beginning of his circle. Just as the sun was setting he arrived at where he had begun. The people cheered. Never had anyone acquired so much land in a single day!
In joy they bent down to rouse the farmer from his exhaustion, but he did not stir. He was dead. Tolstoy concludes: “The farmer’s servant picked up a spade, dug a grave, and buried him. Six feet from head to heels was all he needed.”
How much land – you can insert words like “square footage” or “cars in the garage” or “clothes in the closet” or “ gold certificates” here—how much of this do you need? Probably not as much as you think.
It is a lie to believe that having enough money in the bank, obtaining the most property, making the highest return, shaping the most clever fiscal policy, or acquiring the best performing stock will lead to economic safety, security, or peace of mind. Such thinking is a death-spawning run in a circle.
I readily concede that our hearts need something to pursue. To chase after the higher and better, to possess that for which we long and love is a part of our nature. The challenge before us is to seek what is right and best, to seek what will actually fulfill that search and quench the thirst. To do otherwise may cost us more than dollars.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author. His books include “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus” and “The Jesus Tribe.” Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.