Heart of gold and a heart of stone
Vohsgeh seerd yehv kahreh seerd
Once there was a poor village farmer named Garabed. He was a humble man who worked his fields with oxen and always prayed to God for His infinite mercy. Somehow, he and his wife, Lucine, were able to barely make ends meet. They had one son named Gaitzag who was just a toddler of 4 years old. Garabed was a man who had a heart of love. He was kind, gentle and always respectful. Because of his noble qualities, he was loved in turn by his wife and relatives and friends.
Garabed had an intoxicating smile. He was always helpful to others and never expected anything in return. Lucine would sometimes mention to Garabed that she wished they would become more prosperous so that her life would be easier and little Gaitzag might have a better future than working the fields. Garabed took heed of his wife’s longing and began to wish he were rich.
One day, while fetching fire wood from the deep forest, he met a wizened old man who began to address him. “Young man, you deserve to be wealthy since you have many years of life to live and enjoy. What good are riches for an old man like me who can meet his death at any moment. If you want, I can make you a rich man overnight. But there is only one condition.
“I want to be rich so that my wife and child will not suffer the inconvenience of poverty. What is the condition old man?” asked Garabed.
“Give me your heart of love!” said the old man.
Garabed was shocked. “How shall I live if I give you my heart?” asked Garabed.
“No worry, my son. I have a heart of stone that functions miraculously. It functions as good as your heart. But, it has the added advantage that it will confer on you vast riches for the rest of your life.” replied the old man.
“I don’t understand,” said Garabed. “How can you give me your heart and take mine.
“I know many secrets of life and death. I can replace your heart with mine while you sleep and you won’t feel anything.” said the old man.
In his innocence, Garabed agreed. The next morning, Garabed had the heart of stone that replaced his heart of love. After returning home, Garabed began to gain wealth by different business ventures. His mind saw many opportunities that he had never noticed before. Lucine was amazed by the quick change of fortune. They had all the money they needed for a comfortable life.
Garabed noticed that he no longer felt love for God or anyone else. He became angry quickly and often used harsh words to rebuke anyone who did not satisfy his demands. Lucine and Gaitzag began to suffer from Garabed’s abusive attitude.
Soon Garabed realized that without a heart of love for God, life was not the same. It became a burden for Garabed to be always thinking of money. His heart of stone would not let him be the kind and gentle person he was before.
But, as he became proud of his wealth, he forgot about God and the humble life of faith and honest work. He depended on his own powers for success and did not regret taking advantage of others. His only concern was accumulating wealth and power. He began to see the world as a hostile field of competition in which he had a few friends and many enemies. He was plagued by anxieties for gaining wealth and keeping it secure. Gradually, he developed distrust of everyone including his family.
Garabed became reclusive. His attachment to money and power was overpowering to the point that he no longer regretted his loss of respectability and love. The lust for money was more important than love for others. His heart of stone would not let him love God, family or anyone.
The once gentle Garabed was obsessed by the insatiable lust for wealth. It is said that the lust for money is the root of all evil. Like Garabed, some people hanker so much after money that they are led astray from faith in God and are pierced continually with many sorrows.
The heart of love is the wealth of life. The heart of stone will result in the poverty of love.
The heart of love and one of stone
There was once a poor man who tolerated his fate because he had a heart of love. He was able to offer his love to his family and friends. They in turn reciprocated his love. To nurture his loving heart, he prayed often to God and meditated on the lives of saints who sacrificed everything for God and for the welfare of mankind. His thoughts returned often to Christ’s words,
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40 KJV)
These words of the Lord were the inspiration of his life. He could not imagine living any other way than by sharing his love of God with whoever he encountered. Yet, sometimes he would think how nice it would be if he was not so poor. He imagined that he could do so much more good to others if he had wealth to distribute in charity.
He often took walks in the forest. Once he met an old man in the forest who offered him a means to gain great wealth. The old man said, “You can become very wealthy and help so many people if you agree to my proposal.”
“What is that?” said the poor man.
“If you permit, we can change hearts. You give me your heart of love and poverty and I’ll give you my heart of stone and unlimited wealth,” said the old man.
“How can a heart of stone maintain my life?” said the poor man.
“My heart of stone functions as good as a heart of flesh, said the old man. It is a miraculous pump that will last longer than your heart.”
The poor man thought deeply about the offer. He reasoned that even if he had a heart of stone, he would be able to share his new found wealth and help many others by charity. He agreed to the proposal.The old man caste a hypnotic spell on the poor man. When the poor man revived from the spell, he no longer had a heart of love, but one of stone.
On his return home, he had an uncanny ability to make money. Soon he became rich and prominent. He was so busy that he no longer had time to think about God nor engage in God’s service. Sometimes he became very angry when he was not successful in money matters. During his fits of anger, he became very harsh and insensitive and soon alienated his own family and friends. His mind was consumed with his own self importance. He disdained people who were not cleaver in making money and he was envious of those who were more successful than himself.
When he had a heart of love, he never entertained such nasty thoughts. He was able to control his anger and he never felt envy. Now, he was chasing after money, power, reputation, position and pleasures of the senses so much that he was missing the endearing moments of shared love that he knew before. He was excited about acquiring money, but starved for love.
He came to realize that life without love for God and fellow man was a curse that left one empty. His quest for money and power crippled his ability to love. He yearned for his heart of love whose richness was much more satisfying than mere riches gained by stone-hearted decisions that often deprived others for his own benefit.
He was no longer able to pray to God as he did before nor feel empathy for others. He longed to have his heart of love again which he realized was more valuable than all the money in the world.
One day he ventured into a church during a sermon. He sat down and listened to the priest retell the story of the rich man who approached Jesus and asked if he could also enter the kingdom of God. Jesus told him,
17 “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and knelt to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why call thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honor thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
The stone-hearted rich man prayed to God to give him the strength to follow the advice of Jesus. He became determined to give away his wealth, which he did gradually. As he distributed his wealth, his heart of stone transformed back to a heart of love.