When I was six or seven and learning to read, one of the books that fascinated me most was an edition of Aesop’s Fables. I can still see some of the drawings that illustrated each of the fables, and I was well aware that every story ended with a brief, memorable “moral” that summarized the meaning of that tale. When I was older, I learned that my friend Aesop had lived in Greece about 600 years before Christ, that he was a slave, possibly from Africa, who had a unique gift of story-telling and that about 120 of his profound and pithy lessons from life have been preserved to this day.

Here’s one, known as The Miser:

A Miser had buried his gold in a secret place in his garden. Every day he went to the spot, dug up the treasure and counted it piece by piece to make sure it was all there. He made so many trips that a thief, who had been observing him, guessed what it was the Miser had hidden and one night quietly dug up the treasure and made off with it. When the Miser discovered his loss, he was overcome with grief and despair. “My gold! O my gold!” cried the Miser, wildly, “someone has robbed me!” His neighbor overheard him and said: “Your gold! There in that hole? Why did you put it there? Why did you not keep it in the house where you could easily get it when you had to buy things?” “Buy!” screamed the Miser angrily. “Why, I loved my gold. I couldn’t think of spending any of it.” The neighbor picked up a large stone and threw it into the hole. “If that is the case,” he said, “cover up that stone. It is worth just as much to you as the treasure you lost!”

The moral at the end of the story is this:

A possession is worth no more than the use we make of it.

Jesus told parables to teach similar life lessons, but in contrast to Aesop’s fables his stories centered on our relationship with God. Here’s one we’re probably all familiar with:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21; cf. Luke 12:13-21, 32-34)

Jesus confronts your Miser instinct, but he doesn’t just encourage spending it all on yourself, as Aesop did. Rather, he urges you to invest it in “heaven,” that is, in things that matter to God. As Luke puts it in his version of the parable, hoarding your tangible blessings for your own use demonstrates that you “are not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Either way, whether you spend it selfishly or hoard it selfishly, you might as well hug a rock, for all the good it will do you.

— Pastor George Van Alstine