The Rich Man and the Hermit
by Murray Peat
Once there was a man who had everything – huge home, expensive yacht, cars, a wife and family. Looking over his possessions, he decided he didn’t have enough so he bought a palace, a luxurious beach house, a very expensive touring yacht, more cars, and his wife and family were delighted and encouraged him to buy even more.
One day while out on his multi-storied yacht, a small wooden dingy softly passed by, rowed by a hermit. The hermit looked up and with a broad warm smile, waved at the rich man, who hesitantly waved back. Seated in his comfortable couch, the rich man watched as the hermit rowed then anchored not too distant. The fish were prolific and the hermit full of joy brought in catch after catch, until his dingy was replete with fish. As the hermit rowed happily home, he looked up at the rich man and waved warmly. The rich man waved back.
When the hermit had disappeared out of the bay, the rich man thought: “What joy filled his dingy. What sweet peace accompanied his coming and going, filling his whole little world with joy and peace. I have the world but scarcely enough time to fill it all with joy. I wonder if he has always lived this way.” The rich man decided to pay the hermit a visit.
Eventually finding his home, he knocked on the door of the small old shack by the sea. “Good afternoon, sir,” the hermit kindly said. “Would you like lunch with me? Fish and vegetables.” The rich man hadn’t countenanced being invited for a meal but decided he would risk it. He was shown to a wooden chair at the table and sat, and by and by the hermit brought a simple but delicious meal.
During the meal the rich man asked, “Have you always lived here?”
The hermit replied with a question, “Sir, who would you say was richer? The man who had $1000 and wanted more or the man who had $1000 and wanted less?”
“Interesting question,” the rich man replied, thinking about this. “It must be the man who had the $1000 and wanted less.”
“In what way then was he richer?” the hermit asked.
“He was richer because… he was content with what he had.”
“What is the least you could be content with, sir?”
This thought had never ever entered the rich man’s mind. His life consisted of getting more, not less. To ask such a question rallied against everything he had lived and worked for. At length he honestly answered, “I don’t know the answer to that question.”
The hermit sat still for a long time. The rich man looked around the humble warm peaceful cosy cabin where the hermit lived and wondered what it was in the air that made him feel so relaxed being here. “Does someone live with you?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.
“Yes sir. One dear friend has been with me for many years. I’d be much the poorer without him.”
“Is he coming home soon?” the rich man asked.
“He is home sir. He never leaves me. Wherever I go, he goes. If I’m fishing, he fishes. If I’m gardening, he gardens. If I’m talking, he talks with me.”
“But,” the rich man said, “I don’t see this man. Where is he? And when you rowed out in your boat, there was no-one with you!”
“Sir,” the hermit replied. “Have you ever stood in the wind during a storm and felt its brutal force and seen the wind itself not just its effects? Have you ever stood on a mountain at night and seen out to eternity and felt the speed with which our earth is rapidly turning? Have you ever seen the line that divides the day from the night? Or seen the furnace where lightning springs from, or the reservoir where hail is formed, or the chamber where winds originate? Do you know what will happen when you walk outside my door? Have you ever seen without mirrors or cameras the spine that runs down your own back? Do you know the number of cells in your own body? Can you show me where your love and your anger spring from?”
“No, no, no. No to all those questions,” the rich man answered in exasperation
. “Who is the only one who could know the inner workings of your own body?”
“No-one can know what’s inside me unless they opened me up,” the rich man answered.
“No-one? Where is the storehouse of love, peace, joy, hope, wisdom, mercy, grace in you?”
“I don’t have much of any these,” the rich man replied, honestly. “I would love to have more. You seem to have them in abundance. Where do you get them from?”
“From the only one who knows me better than me.”
“Yes. My creator and yours. He knows how many cells in your body. He knows where your love and anger arise from? He knows the workings of your spine because he made it. He made the lightning furnace, the wind chambers, the hail reservoirs, the day and the night, the moon and the stars. He made time and eternity and he made you and he loves you and he wants to live inside you, my friend. But there’s one thing stopping that.”
“You. You are stopping that. He can only come in if you give him absolute permission and control. It’s risky. You stand to lose everything but you stand to gain everything.”
“Does he have a name?”
“Yes, he does. His name is Yahweh.”
“What does Yahweh mean?”
“Yahweh means ‘I am who I am.’ It means there is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow with Him. He simply lives. You can trust Him utterly and he will take you on the most amazing adventures. You will see the worst of people and the best of people. You will see the power of riches and the poverty of riches. You will see inside your own soul and ask for mercy and he will give you mercy because he loves you. The choice is yours, as it was for me too.”
The rich man didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what he believed now. He was a powerful businessmen who knew answers to most things but this humble hermit had asked him a series of simple questions, none of which he knew the answers for. He decided he needed time.
Returning home, he looked at all his possessions and wondered if he really needed all of them. Perhaps by giving a few up, he would get the hermit’s joy. So he sold half of his houses and cars, and downgraded his yacht. His wife and children thought he was crazy and walked out which grieved him greatly. Nothing he said could change their minds. They wanted more not less.
With fewer possessions, the rich man found it easier to live with less stress but something was still missing. There was no abiding joy. He needed to see the hermit again.
“Welcome back sir. Fish and vegetables for dinner.” Again they enjoyed his simple meal. “Last time you visited me, sir, you asked me a question which I didn’t answer. ‘Have I always lived here?’ No sir. Your journey was mine. Like you I was surrounded by riches until one day I saw the poverty of them. Real abiding life-giving joy was somewhere else.”
“What is the something else? Last time you talked about Yahweh knowing the answers to all those unknowable questions. And you said he lives inside you. What does that mean, for Yahweh to live inside you? How can I know Yahweh too?”
“Yahweh is known through Jesus and his Spirit,” the hermit began.
The rich man chipped in, “I grew up with teachings about Jesus, how he was a great man, was killed on a cross because he claimed to be God, and rose again the 3rd day, then went to Paradise.”
“But do you know why he died and what happened after he went back to Paradise?” the hermit asked. The rich man shook his head. His knowledge about these things was quite limited.
The hermit indicated for them to go outside and in the sand he drew a large circle. “This is Paradise,” he explained. “Yahweh lives here in perfection. A question: If something bad managed to get into Paradise, would Paradise still be perfect?”
“No, it wouldn’t.”
“That’s correct. Why is gold refined by fire?”
“To get rid of all impurities and imperfections.”
“That’s correct. Paradise is surrounded by a constant fire. The only way to get through the fire is if all impurities and imperfections (we call these ‘sins’) have been cast off. If even the slightest part of me is bad, I cannot get through the fire.”
“Then I too would be unable.”
“In fact no man could get through the fire into Paradise because all of us have done or thought something wrong. All sin has to be judged by God - everything - murder, stealing a pen from the office, getting angry with someone, thinking evil about someone. These are all sins and all have a punishment.”
“It’s going to a pretty long court hearing one day,” the rich man reflected.
“Unless someone took your punishment on themselves.”
“Who would step in and do such a thing for me?”
“Jesus. This is exactly what he did. Not just for you and me but for everyone.”
“Murderers and thieves too?”
“Everyone. To God there are no shades of sin. Sin is disobedience to Yahweh’s perfection.”
“So murderers are going to Paradise now?”
“On two conditions. Repentance and perfect trust in Yahweh.”
“So Jesus pays the penalty for the murderer if he says he’s sorry and believes in Yahweh.”
“Not believes in Yahweh. Trusts Yahweh. Satan believes in Yahweh but doesn’t trust him. Trust is a risky thing but the more you trust, the more you can let go and let Yahweh do stuff in your life. I’ll demonstrate. Stand and face the door. I’ll stand right behind you. Now, keeping your feet still, lean back and I promise to catch you.”
The rich man checked the hermit was right behind him and leaned back and he was caught.
“Good. Let’s do it again. But this time stand further away and don’t look back. I promise I’ll catch you.”
The rich man stood for a time wondering if he should lean back. What if…? The hermit had been honest until now. Why should he change his character at this late stage? He would risk it. He leaned back…. no-one there…. fear momentarily took him…. but then the hermit’s hands caught him safely.
“I promised I would catch you. Let’s do it again at the same distance.” The rich man found it easier to relax this time and was duly caught. “One last time, sir,” said the hermit. “You will fall a long way, but I promise I will catch you and nothing will happen to you.”
The rich man decided in that moment to put his life in the hermit’s hands, believing him to be absolutely trustworthy. He fell a long way but at the last was safely caught. “Why did I show you this?” the hermit asked.
The rich man thought for a moment. “To show me that Yahweh can be trusted with my life. Yes, I see it. But if I do repent and trust Yahweh, how will I know he is with me?”
“You will ask him and he will send you his indwelling Spirit. When Jesus went back to Paradise after his death and resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit so he could live inside us. You will know when the Spirit comes because he will give you assurance of himself.”
“Then I believe I am ready.” The hermit asked the rich man to kneel beside him. He asked the rich man to talk to Yahweh and to confess his sins and decide to turn from them, all of them. As he finished, the rich man concluded, “Lord Jesus, I give you my life. I trust you today and forever, to lead me and protect me. To refine me and purify me. Please give me your Holy Spirit to live inside me.”
The hermit put his hands on the rich man’s shoulder and agreed in prayer to Yahweh.There was a long period of silence during which the hermit noticed the rich man was weeping.
When the rich man finally stood up, he looked down at the sea and said, “I want to go into the water, fully clothed. Will you stand with me there and pray for me.” The hermit followed the rich man down to the sea and stood beside him as the rich man submerged himself momentarily. Coming up out of the water, he looked up to Paradise, raised both hands and said loudly: “Yahweh! My God! My Redeemer! My Shepherd!"
At that moment something beautiful appeared and fluttered down from above him and covered and filled the rich man with a glorious drenching joy. His face became radiant and he praised Yahweh even more. The hermit’s spirit was overflowing with the same joy, rejoicing to see the birth of a new man beside him.
Some weeks later, the rich man returned to see the hermit and to thank him for introducing him to Yahweh. His life had been totally transformed. He had given almost everything he owned to his wife and children who were surprised at his sudden generosity and grace towards them.
The rich man had bought a small seaside cottage not far from where the hermit lived so he could enjoy their friendship as often as possible. He had also bought a few other seaside cottages to give away to others in the future who would come to trust Yahweh. The hermit showed the rich man how to harvest good crops and the best fishing spots.
Over time, the cottage community grew as others came to receive Yahweh’s Spirit. Wonderfully, in time, even the rich man’s wife and children were changed and joined him in their humble cottage.
Then one day, Jesus appeared to the rich man as he was harvesting some beans in their garden and said, “My friend, it’s time. Paradise is just through here. Let me take you there. I’ll come back for your family soon” And arm in arm, Jesus and his friend joyfully walked into Paradise.
Murray Peat (Auckland, New Zealand) 2010
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