Tolstoy tells a story about a peasant called Pakhom who desperately wanted to own some land. By saving every penny he had, he bought forty acres. He was overjoyed. However, he soon felt cramped, so he sold the forty acres, and bought eighty acres in another region. But this didn’t satisfy him for long, so he began to look again.
One evening a stranger arrived. Pakhom talked about his desire for more land. The stranger told him that beyond the mountains there lived a tribe of simple people who had lots of land for sale.
Off he went next day. The chief welcomed him and said, “For only a thousand rubles you can have as much land as you can walk round in a day. But you must return to the spot from where you started on the same day, otherwise you forfeit the money.”
Pakhom was thrilled. He couldn’t sleep all that night, thinking of all the land that would soon be his. As soon as the sun peeped above the horizon a marker was put down on top of a knoll, and he was off. Men followed him on horseback and drove stakes into the ground to mark the path he traced out.
He walked fast and made excellent progress. The farther he went the better the land became. In his eagerness to encompass as much as he could, he lost track of time. Then to his horror he saw the sun beginning to go down. He headed for the knoll as fast as he could. He just made it to the top as the sun vanished. Once there, however, he collapsed face downwards on the ground.
“I congratulate you,” said the chief. “You have earned more than any man I can remember.” But Pakhom made no reply. They turned him over. He was dead.
Money and material possessions are necessary.
Jesus’ parable is not about need but about greed. The farmer was rich to begin with, but he still wasn’t satisfied. Greed is like a fire – the more wood you pile on it, the hungrier it gets.
When the crow builds a nest in the forest, it occupies but a single branch. When the deer slakes its thirst at the river, it drinks no more than it needs at that moment.
My friends, all of us have a craving for security. In biblical times, when famine was a recurrent threat, they sought security by stockpiling grain. In our times we seek it by stockpiling money and possessions. People accumulate things and cling to them, because they give the illusion of security. But security cannot be found in possessions. It can be found only in God.
Earthly things can never satisfy the human heart. Only God can give us the kind of happiness our hearts long for. Hence, St Paul says, “Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth.” And Jesus urges us not to store up treasures on earth but to make ourselves rich in the sight of God. What makes us rich in the sight of God is not what we own, or even what we’ve done, but who we are.