Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Three Questions by Leo Tolstoy

Three Questions
Matthew 22:36-40

Once there was a certain king who believed that if he knew the answers to three particular questions, he would live a fulfilling and happy life.  The questions were:

1.   When is the right time to begin?

2.   Who are the right people to listen to, and to avoid?

3.   What is the most important thing to do?

The most learned advisors gave unsatisfactory answers, so the king visited a wise hermit who lived in the woods and asked him the three questions.  The hermit didn’t answer right away.  He was struggling with a spade to dig a garden plot.  So, the king took the shovel and started digging.  When he was finished digging two beds, he asked his three questions again.

Still, the hermit didn’t answer as a bearded man ran into the clearing and fell at the king’s feet.  The man was suffering from a serious stomach wound.  The king cleaned and bandaged the man’s wound several times through the night.  He only fell asleep after the injured man stopped bleeding and revived enough to take a drink of water.

The next morning, the king awoke disoriented and wondering who the strange man staring at him from the bed was.

“Forgive me,” said the man, much to the king’s surprise.

“I do not know you, and have no reason to forgive you,” said the king.

“Ah, but I know you,” said the bearded man.  “I am your enemy.  On my way to killing you, I came upon your bodyguard who recognized and wounded me.  I escaped from them, but would have died had you not dressed my wound.  I wished to kill you, and you saved my life.”

The two men reconciled their differences, and the king went outside.  He found the hermit planting seeds in the freshly turned garden.  Again, the king asked his three questions.  The hermit said, “But your questions have already been answered!”

“What do you mean?” asked the king.

"Do you not see," replied the hermit. "If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug those beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important person; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important person, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important-- Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary person is the person you are with, and the most important thing you can do is to do good for the one you are with, because for that purpose alone were human beings sent into this life!"

There is a statement of faith called “The Shorter Catechism.”  This document lists 107 questions and answers which outline what we, as Christians, believe.  The first question is:

What is the chief end of man?  In other words, why are we here?  Why were we, as Tolstoy puts it, “sent into this life?”

The answer given in The Short Catechism is:

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.

Doing good things for the one you are with makes God happy and glorifies God.  I think doing good things for others makes us pretty happy, too, don’t you?
Won't you pray with me?
Good and Gracious God, We give you thanks for each person here, and for those of our church family who could not be with us today.  We ask that you help us all to do good things for the people in our lives, in our communities and in our world each and every day.  Amen.

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