There were once two caravans traveling across a great desert. Each group was carrying a large amount of supplies that would be very valuable at their destination. They were traveling together for protection as there were many thieves in this area. To make matters worse there was a severe drought in the region, which forced many to steal to survive.
On the first dark night a band of marauders tried to steal the caravans’ goods. The two caravans were able to ward off the thieves, but in the fight one of the caravans lost half of its water. Ben, the leader of the group that lost the water was considering turning back for it was questionable if there was enough water left to make it to their destination. But Jake, the leader of the second group said, “There is water up ahead, so do not be concerned. But be it understood I will not give you any of my water or I may not make it. However, I will sell you half of my water here for one half of your supplies and I will take the risk of running out of water.”
Ben started to think. If I turn back this whole trip will be wasted. But if I run out of water my caravan will be vulnerable to the thieves and I can lose everything, including the lives of all of my men. If I give up half of my supplies I will break even on this trip but still have the security of my life and I can always make other trips. So to the surprise of Jake, Ben gave up half of his valuable supplies from a mere pittance of half of Jake’s water.
Jake took aside his most trusted worker and told him, “Ben is a fool. There should be enough water with half of my supply to make it unless there is extremely hot weather or we are slowed down by thieves. But as added protection I am sending you ahead to the oasis to buy more water in case we need it. Learn well by my example and you will grow rich with me.”
The caravans continued but there was a lot of trouble. The drought made the supplies very valuable and soon the caravans were constantly fighting off bands of thieves, which made traveling slow and dangerous. Jake began selling the supplies he had traded for water. People were treating him with respect, almost like a king for they all needed the supplies he had. At this rate he would soon have all the wealth and power anyone could ever want. He was a very smart man indeed! That poor dumb Ben had already traded half of his wealth for water. And now Ben would not sell any of his remaining supplies for more money, because he had promised to deliver them and would keep his word. Poor Ben would never be rich doing business this way.
The trouble continued for the caravan as they got closer to the oasis, for all the people were drawn there to get water. Jake had used up almost all of his water because of the extra days the travel was taking. So Jake, sought out Ben and said, “Let me buy my water back. I will give you back 1/2 of the money I have received for your goods. This will give you a nice profit as I sold them for over three times what they were worth. Ben quietly replied, “I need all of the water to make my destination. You had better sell some more of your goods here so you can afford to buy enough water to get you out of this drought region. If you wait much longer and there is no rain the price for water will balloon and you will not be able to buy enough.”
But Jake was greedy. Why should he purchase water along the way at three times the cost. Surely the worker he had sent ahead had already purchased enough water at the oasis so there would be no shortage. Ben soon had to bid farewell to Jake as he could not go off his route to accompany Jake to the oasis. Ben hoped that Jake would have purchased water where they were and not gambled on going to the oasis. But he knew that Jake was greedy and would not be happy unless he made a fortune, whatever the risks.
Jake headed towards the oasis for more water, hoping that he would run into his worker who would have purchased enough water for them to survive this drought area and make it back home. Suddenly Jake saw sand blowing in the desert. Was it a mirage or was a small caravan coming this way? Closer and closer the dust came until finally the leader could see it was a caravan carrying water. Closer and closer until he could just make out the image of the man leading the caravan. Closer yet until he could see it was his trusted worker who was leading the small caravan. Jake let out a joyous yell which was joined by all in his caravan. They had water coming. Jake would be able to keep all his money and sell the supplies to make even more money. Then the worker was there and Jake ran out and hugged him.
What a happy day! But then Jake looked at the number of camels and the amount of water which they carried. It would be enough to keep them, but not enough to get them out of the desert. “Where is all the water I sent you to get?” Jake demanded. The worker happily replied, “I learned a lesson from you on how to make money. There should be enough water with only half of the water I purchased. Look at all the money I made by selling the other half of the water you sent me to get. You are rich! Have you ever seen so much gold and jewels?” Jake had all the wealth he would ever need, but without water he would never be able to enjoy it.
Jake did not know what to do. Surely there was someone who would join him in his venture and give him water in exchange for money. They could split the value of the supplies with him. He asked all the caravan leaders he met, but they could not help as they did not have any extra water. Here Jake was with all the riches of the world at his feet, plus all the riches that he would be able to make with his remaining supplies, yet without water he was a poor man. Without water he could not exist or leave this God forsaken, desolate area with any of his riches. He would have to give everything he owned to get what he needed the most, water. For now riches were not measured in gold or silver, but how much life saving water one had.
Jake thoughts turned to Ben. He hated to admit it, but Ben had been right to choose water over riches, to save his caravan instead of losing it for riches. Jake wondered, did Ben make it to his destination or not?
Ben had not wanted to leave Jake, but he did not have much choice. It was either leave and get away from all the congestion and people around the oasis, or get swallowed up by it and in the process run out of the most precious thing he possessed, water. The caravan journey had been a real struggle. Fighting those who would steal your possessions as well as fighting the temptation of those who would give you whatever you wanted for your water. Ben was offered gold, silver, power, and beautiful women for his water. But he knew that he barely had enough water to reach his destination. All were lying when they said there was water only a little ways farther. For the only water available was what he carried. If he was lured into selling any for temporary gain, he would not make it out of the desert.
Ben’s caravan finally made it through the desert, through the wind, sandstorms, and burning sun. Their water had run out as they reached the edge of the desert and started to come upon green fields and trees. Suddenly the tired and worn out caravan faced a large group of soldiers coming towards them with a Royal King leading them. Ben went out ahead and fell on his knees before the King saying, “We have brought supplies here for you. We are tired and need water to survive. Please help us and the supplies are yours for nothing.” But the man in charge replied, “I am King of this whole region. You have done well. You have held your faith against all odds. You will receive that which you have been promised. We have living water for you so that you will never thirst, and a beautiful place for you to live forever.”
Jake, trapped at the Oasis, still looked for some way to get water while keeping his riches. Finally he had some hope. A caravan leader passing suggested he approach the Sultan of the Oasis. Jake approached the Sultan with low expectations, but to his surprise he worked out a deal where the Sultan would provide all the water Jake would need, for only half of his supplies. Jake slept well in the Sultan’s guest tent that night. He still had not lost his brilliant touch. He had struck such a great bargain with the Sultan that he would be able to save over half of his wealth and that would make him one of the richest and most powerful men around.
But the next morning when he awoke something was wrong. He looked down at his ankle and there was a metal ring attached around it and tied to a steel post in the ground. He had been taken captive. The Sultan walked in the tent and Jake immediately jumped up demanding to be released.
The Sultan merely laughed heartily and replied, “You are joking aren‘t you? You really believe you can have both the water and all the earthly riches. The two don’t mix. Because you don’t have any lifesaving water you will have to be my slave and work on the burning desert forever. All the riches you have accumulated will burn and be worthless in this great heat. Don’t worry about escape for I am sole ruler of my domain and no one comes down here of his free will.”
This story illustrates how faith enables us to know what riches to pursue. What good are all the riches of the world which will soon pass away, when we can have the living water of our Savior which reserves for us an everlasting mansion in His Father’s glorious Kingdom in Heaven above.
*"They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
Rev 7:16-17 NASB
Copyright 2002 amended 2013 by Ron Borkey
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