Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blessings or Burdens: A short story

dirt poor farmer is awakened by an angel standing at the foot of his bed. The
angel shares: ‘God desires to bless you as He did your ancestor Abraham. He has
empowered me to grant you and your wife three wishes. The only condition is this: your
neighbor whom you dislike will receive a double portion of what is given to you and your
wife.’ They are amazed and astonished. Since they were very, very poor, the first request
was for 1,000 head of cattle. This would break the cycle of poverty that his family had
endured for years. No sooner had he made the request - he heard noises now coming
from his land. He and his wife rushed out the door - and lo and behold 1,000 cattle.

They knelt down - gave thanks to God - and praised his name. They were filled with great
joy. He and his wife went out in the afternoon to survey the land to see where a barn could
be built to hold all the grain necessary to feed such a herd. They decided to construct a
barn near the first hill on the property.

However, as they reached the hill - they could see their neighbor’s field - and their
herd of 2,000 cattle. Immediately their joy disappeared and they went home angry. They
were so upset they could not eat their supper. All they could see was their neighbor’s herd
- and not their own.

The farmer and his wife considered their second request. They always had wanted
a child. This became their second request. The wife joyfully announces at the local
synagogue they will be parents. Sure enough one Friday evening as the Sabbath was
about to begin, a baby was born into their circle of love. The next occasion the farmer went
to the local synagogue, and when the time came for the prayers of the people, he stood
and exclaimed, “God is surely gracious, for a child was born into our family last
night.” As wave of delight went through the whole congregation and then, from the other
side of the synagogue, his neighbor arose and said, “Indeed, God is good, for last night
my wife gave birth to twins.” No sooner had his neighbor said these words, all the joy
that the farmer had been feeling disappeared again, and he went home in a very different
frame of mind from the way he had started the day.

This time the dark discontent did not abate, and he knelt down late that night to
make his final request, “Lord, God, I ask you to gouge out my right eye.” As soon as
he had said these grim words, the angel materialized at the foot of his bed once again and
said solemnly, “Oh son of Abraham, why have you turned to such dark desiring?”
The farmer replied with utter bitterness, “I cannot stand the sight of my neighbor’s good
fortune - so I will gladly sacrifice half of my vision for the satisfaction of knowing that he will
be blind and unable to see his great blessings.” A long silence ensued, in which tears
formed in the eyes of the angel, who then said, “Why have you taken an occasion for
blessing and turned it to such destructiveness? Hear this, your third request will not be
granted, not because God lacks integrity but because God is full of mercy. You should
know, too, that you have brought great sadness not only to yourself but also to the Holy
One by virtue of how you have chosen to respond to His generosity.”

This story from the reverse side clearly demonstrates how the power of greed and
possessions can turn great blessings into unfortunate burdens. Why do people turn God's blessings into a burden and a bitter, joyless experience?