One day, a wealthy man went into the marketplace to give a lot of money to charity. He did this out of a fear of being denied access to heaven as punishment for his sins, and to impress, and so gain approval and favor from his contemporaries. But, in his heart he really cared for no one but himself.
He went to the first table that was accepting charity because it was the most conveniently located. At that table a poorly dressed, simple-looking man asked him why he would give so much money. He replied that he was simply doing God’s work. The simple man then insisted that he take his money elsewhere. This angered the self-serving man. “Who does this worthless keeper of beggars think he is?” he said under his breath.
Then, he gave his money to the smartly dressed men at the very next charity table and got a fancy receipt. He showed everyone his receipt and indeed got a lot of praise. He went home feeling proud of his good works. That night, the men at that second charity table secretly left town with the self-serving man’s money and no one ever knew.
The very next day, another wealthy man heard what his self-serving friend had done. However, this man’s heart was very troubled about giving. He was deeply confused and unsure. Yet, he was willing to experiment in order to discover the truth. So seeing no harm, he decided to followed his friends example but with an open mind.
He went into the marketplace and looked over all the charity tables. He then walked up to the first table because the simple man at that table was standing up and intently watching him. When he approached, the simple man asked him why he would give so much money. He spoke honestly and said “I do not know.” The simple man put a hand on his shoulder and told him to keep his money for now and continue to follow his heart. The willing man didn’t know how to feel about this, so seeing no harm, he decided to followed the simple man’s advice and walked home.
On the way home, he heard many still openly praising the self-serving man for his incredibly selfless act of generosity. They kept telling themselves that he was truly doing God’s work. The willing man was very confused by this. “God’s work? What need of money has God? He can create anything He wants any time He wants. And, why would He need our help to do His own work? Our abilities are nothing compared to His. What makes men need to feel so self-important?” he asked himself.
The very next day, yet another wealthy man, who was also a good friend of the other two, had a dream that God asked him to give away everything he owned except the clothes on his body, which he immediately did out of a childlike blind faith and a deep and simple love for his heavenly Father.
That morning, he sold his entire estate complete with all his possessions and took every penny of his considerable wealth to the marketplace. He simply walked up to the first charity table that he saw because he had faith that God would direct him to the table of His choosing. The simple man at that table asked him why he would give so much money. He replied “Because I believe that God has asked me too.”
The simple man then accepted the purse of the faithful man and said “thank you for your gift, but it is not yet enough. You must first make and keep a promise to my Father and then you must perform two tasks. Once this is done, then your gift to my Father will have served its purpose, and He will be pleased” The faithful man said “I will gladly do as our Father asks no matter how difficult because I love him with all my heart.”
The simple man then said “The promise that you must keep is this. Do not accept praise for this gift from anyone but me. When I give it, you will know.” Then he said “Your first task is to go and find a trusted friend to assist you in your second task. Once you have found him, bring him here and I will inform you both of your second task. This is what my Father commands.”
The faithful man then did as he was asked and called upon his two wealthy friends. He told them of his dream and what he had done with his wealth.
The self-serving man told his now poor friend that acting in such a way because of a dream was totally foolish and insane. Afterward, because his friend was now poor, he turned his back and walked away, thus ending their friendship. He then told the sad story of his insane friend to every sympathetic soul who would listen. He gathered up all their sympathy and warmed himself by it.
The willing man, although a little worried and deeply concerned for his friend, did not turn his back on him because he was now poor. Instead, he followed his heart’s curiosity and asked many questions.
The faithful man then told him that God knows what all His children need and how to protect them. He can easily prevent any evil dream. He has the power to turn any mistake of ignorance into something truly wonderful. Any outcome was first given His permission and completely serves His purpose. He can be blindly trusted to be a good Father.
This stirred the willing man’s heart with a longing to personally know God’s love for him and he announced it openly to his faithful friend. Then, his friend told him of the two mysterious tasks which God had given, and the willing man suddenly felt excited and begged to be chosen as his faithful friend’s assistant. Of course, he was gladly accepted with a warm embrace.
The very next day, both men went into the marketplace and approached the simple man of charity.
The simple man asked the willing man “are you willing to become this man’s assistant during his completion of God’s second task, even though you do not yet know what it is or how long it will last?” The willing man replied “gladly and with all my heart.” The simple man then said “Then look upon yourself and know that you too have demonstrated a similar blind faith. Now, here is the second task…”
The simple man then gave back to the faithful man his purse with every penny of his fortune in place. He then said to the willing man “Let your faithful friend live with you in your house and willingly share your wealth with him because I say that he is now your brother.” Then he said to them both “Every day that this very market is open, from now until that purse is penniless, a least one of you is to come here and shop, not for the poor, but with them, accompanying them as their faithful servant. Let yourselves be guided by your heart on what to buy and how much to spend. Become experts of true quality and value. Always represent me to those in need with your very best efforts. And, put back into that purse all coins that are freely given.” Then he said to the willing man “You must also give your word not to accept any praise unless it comes from me. When I give it, you will know.” With an excited voice, the willing man gave his word and then both men left the market.
The very next day, they came back to the marketplace but the simple man was gone. They faithfully purchased a table and attempted to fulfill their task but as they announced their purpose, few trusted them at first, especially the poor. Still, they studied the market carefully and worked hard to gain the trust of all. They were polite and gentle with the elderly and infirm. And they learned how to discern the true needs of their clients. They grew to hold within them the very heart of a loving servant of man.
As onlookers saw the evidence of their work, small crowds began to form around them. Merchants, shoppers and religious men alike tried to praise them for their good deeds but they would faithfully say “We are sorry but we cannot accept your praise for we are only allowed to accept it from one other.”
Eventually, those who would offer praise learned that it was not welcome and so they started offering coins as a way of taking part. Of course, this meant that the purse was always full. But, that was not taken as a burden by these two dedicated brothers. Each day, even though God only required one of then to come, they both showed up first thing every morning because their task was so fulfilling that neither was willing to stay home.
Then one morning, just 12 days into their task, they placed a loaf of bread into the hands of a dirty-faced little girl who was far too thin from poverty and want. With gentle hands, they wiped her face clean and as she stared deeply into their eyes, her tears came pouring down. Suddenly, they looked at each other and realized that they had just received true praise of the highest form and they both knew deep in their hearts from whom it had come.