From: Christian Stories of Wisdom
Once upon a time there was a miser, a man whose hands were shaped like an eagle’s claws. The moment he held anything, he was unable to let it go. This was useful for grabbing hold of branches if he fell from trees, but painful if he grasped a poker the wrong way.
If his stomach had functioned the way his money did, it would have split as soon as he was born, like a bag bursting at the seams. And yet his avarice ruined even his health, for the larger his nest egg grew, the more worn out the merchant became. In fact, he constantly checked his stash of money; he no longer slept or ate, as he was so anxious about its security.
However, one night in the small hours an idea occurred to him. In his shed there was a wooden log so heavy he could hardly move it. He drilled a small hole in the log and buried the coins inside. Then he covered the big log with other logs.
This strategy merely served to displace the problem. Rather than watching his coins closely, he kept a close eye on his log and was exceedingly careful whenever he lit a fire at home.
But he was on his guard against fire when it was water he should have feared.
One evening a month later, as the miser was on his way upstairs to bed, a storm broke. First came the lightning, streaking the sky, followed by a rolling of thunder, which brought rain. The water that had been contained for so long in the steel grey clouds flowed at once in a powerful flood. Streets became rivers, puddles became lakes, and houses became boats. The logs in the merchant’s shed were carried away by a strong current.
The storm did not subside until the morning. The blessed dawn lit the scattered remains of the storm. Torn roofs; wrecked sheds. The log had been swept out of the shed and landed a few miles further on, in front of a blacksmith’s house. As the blacksmith left his house he spotted the sizeable log and, overjoyed, he dragged it under the roof to chop for firewood. The first blow of the axe revealed the treasure inside. He called his wife and two daughters and showed them what the storm had carried their way to relieve them of their misery.
Meanwhile the miser lay half-dead before the sight of his destroyed shed. However, he recovered and swore that unless he found his possession he would never to go home again.
He turned into the sunken path which had been hollowed out by the storm during the night.
In each village he went to the inn and asked:
“You wouldn’t have heard about a log as wide as a barrel?”
Everyone poked fun at him.
The story of the man who went chasing after his log spread everywhere. The rumor was swift and reached the village of the blacksmith, who understood and did not laugh.
The miser returned to his village.
The peasants were waiting for him in the inn. They were already laughing.
“Is it you who has lost a log?”
“Yes. Last year I lost the rim of my well!”
“Oh. Don’t mention it,” said the butcher, “just two weeks ago I couldn’t find my butcher’s block.”
“And, as for me,” said the joiner, “from these substantial planks I made a brand new piece of timber.”
“As for the anvil of the…!”
“The anvil is in its place,” said the blacksmith, who had just entered.
Those who were laughing fell silent and glanced at the spoilsport.
The blacksmith was honest, but not stupid.
He wished to put the merchant to the test in order to know the Creator’s will.
In the kitchen his wife was preparing loaves. He had an idea. He asked her to bake three extra loaves: a large one, one of medium thickness, and a small one. He also asked her to prepare a festive breakfast.
The following day the miser arrived. He asked to be shown around the house. The blacksmith had been expecting him and removed the coins from the log. Only twigs and sticks were to be found under his roof.
The merchant sat down and said he had no appetite. However, he did the meal credit and cast his host sidelong glances; he did not understand the blacksmith’s generosity. Just as he was about to leave, the blacksmith showed him the three loaves his wife had baked and suggested he try one. The largest was stuffed with earth, the middle-sized one contained a bone, and the small one was filled with the money found in the block.
The miser chose the biggest and heaviest loaf.
“But this is the most substantial one; the wheat is better and is more nourishing,” said the blacksmith, pointing to the smallest loaf.
The miser would not give up. He clutched the large loaf firmly and was unwilling to release it from his grasp.
“Such is your decision,” said the blacksmith. He watched him leave.
For once, the money went to the poverty-stricken. For once, money was outsmarted.