Monday, April 11, 2011

The Field

A certain farmer was a devout Jew. He was careful not to reap his fields to the edges, but he always left a little in the field for the poor to glean. He always paid his laborers on time their wages as promised. He never permitted his laborers to work or his animals to be worked on the Sabbath; moreover, he himself did not work on the Sabbath even when his fields were full and the produce might rot in the ground.

One day an esteemed holy man came to town. He was a humble and wise teacher who had nothing but an old tunic and exhausted sandals to wear. The farmer too was in town, selling his produce. He could not quite make out what the man was saying to the crowds as they stood between his cart and the teacher. Late in the day the crowds went away, and the itinerate preacher was left famished. The farmer himself was about to leave for home when he saw the man. He shouted to him, "Teacher, I have these two pears and some bread left. Would you like any of it?" The teacher stopped, came up to the cart and said, "Yes, I would, but I have not a cent to give you." The farmer replied, "Just tell me what you told the crowds, and I will be satisfied to give you all that is left in my cart. It will be payment enough." "Very well," said the teacher, "Go, sell all you possess, give to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven." With that the farmer placed the items into his hands and said, "Thank you, Rabbi." The holy man blessed him, and the two parted ways.

As the farmer traveled home, his heart became heavy. "How can I give away all my possessions??? I am no holy man like that prophet. It's all too much for me." Very much grieved, he at last came to his home and was restless all night.

The next morning, he took a hammer and stake out to his field. He pounded the stake into the soil and placed on it a sign which read, "FOR SALE." He told no one what he was doing or why. But upon discovery, his wife and and all the workers became quite worried, then upset. Angry and angrier, the more they thought about it.

The next day, a disciple came knocking at the door seeking to acquire the land. Indeed the offer was not much, but the Jew was generous of heart and agreed to the terms of the deal. The transaction was set to be finalized on the third day.

Though his workers were enraged and his family livid, the farmer slept that night with an indescribable sense of peace. On the day of the transaction, he woke straight up at four in the morning. Bright and radiant was his room and the holy man stood once again before him. "What are you doing, you foolish farmer? Your buyer is no apostle of light. That wicked man will strip the fields bare so that poor have nothing to glean. He will withhold payment to the laborers till the end of time. Moreover, they will be worked night and day till the Sabbath becomes only a distant memory. The animals will be used up, and the land worn out. And you would sell him your inheritance at half price? You have already secured your treasure in heaven. Truly you have given to the poor. Truly you are selling all you possess, but never sell your birthright. Go this day into your inheritance and cultivate your field."

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