Novelist Leo Tolstoy once wrote a story of a prosperous Russian farmer named Pahom who was not satisfied with the successes he had enjoyed.  Even though he had enjoyed great prosperity with his own farm, he wanted more.  He spent a great deal of his life’s energies angling for that big opportunity.  One day Pahom was connected to an unbelievable offer.   For 1000 rubles, he could buy all the land he could walk around in a day.  (Think a Russian version of the Oklahoma land rush of the 1880s.)  In that day, a thousand rubles would amount to about two to three month’s wages for the average Russian…a mere pittance for the rich soil you’d win.   Since money, for the ambitious farmer, wasn’t an issue, all he needed to do was walk the territory, use a spade to dig the necessary markers to form the perimeter, and make it back to where he had started by sundown.

Early the next morning he started out walking his gigantic geographic rhombus at a fast pace.  By midday he was very tired, but he kept going, covering more and more ground.  Well into the afternoon, he realized that his insatiable hunger for more had taken him far from the starting point.  Worried, he began to scramble–spade in hand–to finish the large property he had set out to win for himself.

As the sun began to sink low in the sky, he began to run–even if it was more stumble than sprint–knowing that if he did not make it back by sundown, every square inch would be lost.  As the sun began to sink below the horizon he came within sight of the finish line. Gasping for breath, he summoned every ounce of strength left in his body.  Tolstoy said “his heart was beating like a hammer and his legs were giving way,”  yet he still found a way to lurch back to the starting point—just moments before the sun flickered below the horizon–where his servant and the tribesmen selling the land to him awaited.

Falling upon the cap that marked the starting-point (a cap that was topped by his 1000 rubles), Pahom threw his marking spade on the ground and collapsed with his hands upon the cap and money. Blood was spurting from his mouth. Within moments, he was dead.

Only shock sat upon the faces of the servant and the tribesmen.  After a moment to collect himself, the farmer’s servant picked up the very spade Pahom had used to mark the borders and dug a grave for him right there on the property he would never own, enjoy or profit from.  That grave—his final possession—was 6’ long and 3’ wide.

Just moments before collapsing upon his calamitous and final 18 square feet, Pahom ended up uttering these tragic and prophetic words: “I have GRASPED TOO MUCH and ruined the whole affair.” 

I HAVE GRASPED TOO MUCH.   This is not a story only for the rich, but for all.  It’s not about wealth, it’s about GRASPING.  Over-reaching.  Discontentment.  Jesus spoke about this in the 12th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  Speaking to poor and rich alike (middle-class, too!), the Messiah said: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed.  Life is not measured by how much you own.”   Every kind of greed, He said.  Jesus wasn’t talking to rich people–but to all of us.  You see, Jesus’ word that we see as “greed,” literally conveys the effort of over-reaching…grasping.

Whether today’s economic pressures are collapsing upon you as the weight of debts or threats, or the financial circumstances discover you as a capitalist–with the prospect of leveraging  your resources to find outrageous “deals,” be wary of the kinds of things that you’ll GRASP for.  Remember, if something is replaceable, it’s truly worthless.  If something can’t make it across the threshold of eternity, it’s value is scant.  But, if you are grasping for the part of the human experience that possesses a soul–GRAB AHOLD AND NEVER LET GO.  Eternity and value are found only in that which is invisible.

What an amazing experience is the human life.  To possess something that can never be taken away from us–whether we are rich or poor.  The possession of Power to grasp the invisibly Eternal.

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