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If only I had known …

He was only 10 years old but he was already an orphan and a homeless beggar on the streets of Calcutta. All he possessed was a small bowl and a small bag. Each day he would set the bowl on the sidewalk in front of him to collect coins. At the end of the day, if anyone had shown mercy and given him coins, he would buy a bit of rice to put in the plastic bag – his meal for the next day.

But one day he heard a wealthy Rajah would be passing by the very spot where he sat and begged. “Oh,” he excitedly thought, “perhaps the Rajah will see me and drop some coins in my bowl.”

The day finally came when the Rajah would pass by. Trumpeters marched at the head of the parade. People crowded in front of the poor boy so he could barely see the spectacle. But when he finally saw the gold adorned coach carrying the rich Rajah he began crying out, “Rajah! Rajah! Have pity on me.”

Suddenly he heard a voice inside the coach demand, “Stop! Find the one who is asking for my pity.” The boy’s excitement immediately turned to terror. “Is the Rajah angry? Will he punish me for daring to bother him? What will he do when he finds me?”

He closed his eyes and hid his face wishing he could disappear. Soon he heard approaching footsteps as a hush came over the crowd. Still looking down, he slowly opened one eye and saw, standing right in front of him, the feet of someone wearing richly jeweled slippers and an ornate robe.

A voice with regal authority asked, “What do you want from me?”

Terrified, he squeaked out his request, “Coins for my cup, Rajah?”

In response the voice demanded, “Give me your rice.”

Confused and terrified the boy didn’t know what to do. Surely the wealthy Rajah did not need his small handful of rice. If he gave away his rice he might starve. But if he held on to it the powerful Rajah might have him beaten. What could he do?

He had an idea. He reached into his rice bag and carefully counted 10 grains of rice. One by one he dropped each grain into the empty coin bowl in front of him. Then he covered his head and closed his eyes fearfully waiting for the Rajah’s response.

Soon the trumpets and noisy parade resumed. The Rajah had returned to his carriage and was moving on down the street. Slowly the boy opened his eyes. Sure enough, the Rajah had taken the 10 grains of rice the boy had offered him. But, to his surprise, joy and yet great sadness he saw that in their place the Rajah had left 10 gold coins. Ten coins for ten grains of rice.

Suddenly and with near overwhelming grief he now understood. “Oh,” he cried out, “Why did I hold back? If only I had known, I would have given my all!”

1 Timothy 6:17-19
Command those who are rich in this present world … to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.