There was once a poor farmer. He was always struggling to get enough food. One winter, he was left with just one chicken. If the chicken laid an egg the farmer would eat that day, and if it didn’t, he went hungry.
Desperate, he went to a neighbour who was very religious and asked for advice. The neighbour told him: ‘Don’t worry so much about what happens to you in this world. It is the next world that counts. Make sure you live a good life and get to heaven.’
The farmer thought carefully about this. Then he asked his neighbour on the other side, who always seemed to have plenty of money. The farmer asked this man if it was possible for a poor man to become rich. The neighbour frowned and answered:
‘It’s possible. The secret is that you have to buy something and then keep it until it is worth more money. Then you sell it for more money than you paid for it. That is called making a profit.’
The farmer checked to see if his hen had laid an egg. It had. He wanted to boil it and eat it, but instead he took it down to the market. Perhaps he could make a profit. He looked for something that would be worth more money if he kept it for a long time, but he didn’t really know much about these things. He decided to try a jewellery store.
‘I’d like to buy some gold jewellery,’ said the farmer.
‘What can you pay me?’ said the jeweller.
‘This egg,’ offered the farmer, shyly. The jeweller burst out laughing.
‘With an egg, you won’t be able to buy gold jewellery. For a hundred eggs I might give you the cheapest little thing I have.’ He realised that the farmer didn’t really understand much about business, so decided to have a bit of fun with him. He leaned forward as if he was about to tell a big secret and said:
‘Listen, I’ll sell you something for that egg. For that egg, I will give you my place in heaven.’
The farmer was delighted and very keen to swap. So the jeweller grabbed a bit of waste paper and wrote ‘I promise to give my place in heaven to the man carrying this certificate.’ He signed it and presented it to the farmer. The farmer walked away, very happy.
The jeweller then turned to his wife. All this time she had been serving another customer but now she was free. The jeweller told her the trick he’d played, and threw the egg away over his shoulder. His wife ran forward and caught it, just stopping it from smashing on the ground. She was horrified.
‘That was very wrong!’ the wife trembled. ‘You think you are laughing at the farmer, but you are really laughing at God. Go back and get that paper that you wrote on. And give him back this egg. If you don’t, I’ll never spend another day in the same house as you!’
The jeweller was worried now. He didn’t think the trick was quite so funny. He ran off after the farmer and caught up with him.
‘Sorry’ he puffed. ‘I tricked you. Here’s your egg. Can I have the paper back?’
‘You didn’t trick me,’ shrugged the farmer. ‘I got a great deal.’
‘Seriously,’ said the jeweller. ‘Why don’t I give you two eggs? No, ten! … A hundred eggs!’
The farmer held up the piece of paper. ‘I’ve got what I want. I’ve got what’s most important.’
The jeweller was sweating. He kept thinking about losing his wife because she was so angry - and losing his place in heaven if God was angry.
‘I’ll give you the most valuable piece of gold on my stall’, begged the jeweller.
The farmer sighed and scratched his head, but was still hesitating.
‘Come on…’ urged the jeweller, ‘To get a place in heaven you just have to be good.’
- Should the farmer take the gold jewellery and give back the piece of paper?
- Who is the wisest person in this story? (remember: there are two neighbours, the jeweller's wife, the jeweller and the farmer!)
- Does anyone in the story say anything that isn't true?