Once upon a time a man and woman lived off Dutch Canyon Road in Scappoose. They had six children all of whom were in their 20’s. The father was a wealthy man, well beloved in his community, but terminally-ill with cancer. One day while reason still lingered, he asked his beloved wife to invite their children for dinner and an important announcement. Curious and concerned they all came.
After a sumptuous meal of salmon and asparagus, the father called them into the den and said, “Kids, I love you. I don’t know how much time I have left but I am going to give you each a gift.” He then handed each of them a blue envelope. “You may not open this until after my funeral.”
Two months later, the father died. After his touching funeral, the six gathered with their mother in their father’s den and opened their envelopes. Inside of each was a personalized blessing and then a set of instructions which read the same for each sibling.
I am grateful for the wealth God has blessed me with and I now leave some of that blessing with you. Enclosed is a check for $100,000 and a ticket to Songea, Tanzania, the city where my close friend and missionary Jonathan Burrows lives. You may take the money or the trip but you cannot have both. Choose wisely. All my love, Dad—now in heaven.
The oldest daughter a rationalist thought about her father’s words and contemplated her option. “It’s not safe to travel to Africa,” she reasoned. “Mr. Burrows is a great guy but with the Muslims up in arms he and his family could be murdered. Mom is pretty vulnerable right now, what with Dad’s passing and all, she needs me. Besides, my own business is at a critical stage right now and prudence dictates I shore up my company. I can use the ensuing profits to help our church. As a deacon I need to set a good example of fiscal responsibility.” So, she took the money and went on to run a successful company. Her legacy was a trail of common sense decisions in a community that respected stable reasoning.
The twenty-year old son chose to take the money but for different reasons. “I deserve this money and I’m going to celebrate in style! Going to Tanzania isn’t going to do me squat!” So he bought an expensive sports car, a ski boat, and season tickets to the Blazers. With his self-centered, humanistic philosophy it wasn’t long before he’d earned quite a fortune. If his profits were high, to help off-set taxes, he gave substantial gifts to his family’s church. Until the Sunday his pastor preached Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, after that, he longer came or gave.
Then He told them a parable: “A rich man’s land was very productive. He thought to himself, ‘What should I do, since I don’t have anywhere to store my crops? I will do this,’ he said. ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones and store all my grain and my goods there. Then I’ll say to myself, “Youhave many goods stored up for many years. Take it easy; eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared—whose will they be?’
“That’s how it is with the one who stores up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”(Luke 12:16-21)
The fourth oldest daughter reasoned, “I am afraid of flying and really shouldn’t go to some country where I could get sick or injured. What if something bad happened! Dad, was pretty ill near the end, I bet he was not thinking clearly when he wrote this card. I’m going to take the sure thing.” She invested her new money in mutual funds, put in a sizable down payment on her first home, and carefully managed her finances. She was a faithful attendee in her church for five years. But she lacked confidence to serve and perpetually worried. She rarely tithed for fear that the economy might collapse and she wouldn’t have reserves to care for her growing family. She left the church when her baby drowned in a neighbor’s pool. She just couldn’t trust God.
The fifth and next to youngest son could not figure out the relevancy of a ticket to Tanzania. The money was right in front of him so he opted to take it. He never could understand why his Dad spent so much time traveling to Africa—after all, it had nothing to do with his business. Nor could he comprehend the value of helping people across the ocean—there were plenty of needs all around them. He took the money and added it to his ample gold investments. He went on to become a righteous pillar of the church, an elder who loved to oversee new building projects. He made sure visitors did not sit in his family’s favorite section and he loved to get up front and lead business meetings. While he had many friends he had no close acquaintances. His life seemed repetitive and hollow-somehow. It was like he knew God but he didn’treally. Oswald Chambers in My Utmost For His Highestwrote, “A person who has forgotten what God treasures will not be filled with joy.”
The second oldest was the rebel of the family. She didn’t particularly like her dad and ignored her mother. She knew in her heart her father had always wanted to involve her in missions—that God came first in their lives. But she didn’t want to be told what to do and she resented any pressure from them or her ambitious older sister. Besides, she felt like missions work was a clever form of colonialism or cultural imperialism, and money was tied to corporate sleazebags with hidden agendas she wanted nothing to do with. So she gave the money to the guy she was living with and smoked weed to calm her frayed nerves.
The third son determined as a teenager to make God first in his life. He took the envelope and smiled after reading the contents. Consistent with his convictions, he set it aside for a week to pray. He and his new wife were tight financially but determined to make ends meet. His high-tech job in a struggling computer industry left him very vulnerable to being laid-off. But he was well-liked at work and sure that God would provide for his needs. The roundtrip ticket was for three weeks. If he took the trip, he would lose his job, but if he didn’t go now, he’d probably never go. With the blessing of his wife and an astonished boss, he emailed Mr. Burrows his itinerary, cleared his calendar, and flew to Songea. After a long, tiring trip, he met his eager African host.
Three weeks in Tanzania, left him overwhelmed by all the needs of the people he met. Through his deep love for God he developed a fast-growing love for them. Near the end of the trip he could not wait to get home and share with his wife and church what he had learned. His life and how he viewed ministry was forever changed. Just before Jonathan drove him to the airport, he handed him an envelope—it was from his father. With trembling hands he opened it to find a letter and a check.
“Caleb, I am so proud of you and the hard decision you made. You gave up $100,000 to come and invest in God’s work with a people you have never before seen. Because of the sacrifice you made, I know that I can trust you to take care of the $1,000,000. I have written to be handled as a joint account by you and Jonathan Burrows. You will oversee the spending and continue my ministry to Tanzania according to how God leads you. I love you and look forward to hearing your stories when you reunite with me in heaven.”
“How did Dad know I would come?” he asked Jonathan.
“When you confirmed your ticket, a letter was mailed from your Dad’s accountant to me. Your father wrote, Luke 10:2—“He told them: “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”
One of six has chosen to come, five of six could not understand the need.
©2003 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)