The year was 1870. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USAmerica, Russell Conwell, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, presented a lecture he entitled “Acres of Diamonds.” The lecture struck a responsive chord in the hearts of his audience, and in years to come he presented the same lecture over 6,000 more times in scores of different settings, ranging from small churches to the packed-out courts of European royalty. Millions of people paid to hear that famous lecture, and Conwell used most of the proceeds to establish and maintain Temple University.
Here is my updated, revised, modernized version of Conwell’s lecture entitled “Acres of Diamonds.” Dr Conwell had been among a group of tourists journeying down the Tigris River in what is now Iraq—what was once part of the ancient Persian Empire. Their guide was one of those people who loved to entertain his patrons by telling them stories about the area through which they were traveling. Here is a condensed version of one of the guide’s stories.
Long, long ago, there lived in the area a Persian farmer named Al Hafed. He owned a very large farm with orchards, fields of grain and lush gardens. Al Hafed was a contented and wealthy man—contented because he was wealthy, and wealthy because he was contented. One day a passing traveler stopped to rest for a while. While visiting, the traveler told Al Hafed a legend about how the world began. The earth had been created a ball of fire; as flames burst through the cooling crust they cast up the mountains and made the hills and valleys. The crust of the earth that cooled quickly became granite; that which cooled less quickly became silver; and even less quickly, gold; and after gold, diamonds were made.
The old traveler exclaimed: “Diamonds are congealed drops of sunlight!” The old traveler went on his way and Al Hafed began thinking about diamonds. After thinking about diamonds and how much they were worth, he went to bed that night a poor man—not that he had lost any of his wealth, but poor because he was now discontented, and discontented because he thought he was poor. He decided he wanted a mine of diamonds. He sold his farm, collected all his outstanding debts with interest, left his family, and away he went in search of diamonds.
He traveled the world in search of diamonds—crossing raging rivers, scaling rugged mountains, wandering through deserts, enduring harsh jungles. When his money was all spent, and he was truly poor—truly poverty stricken—Al Hafed cast himself into the ocean to die, a broken and spent man who took his own life in a strange land. Meanwhile, one day the person who had purchased Al Hafed’s farm led his camel out into one of the lush gardens to drink.
Curious Flash of Light
As that camel put its nose down into the clear water of the garden brook, the new owner noticed a curious flash of light from the sands of the shallow stream. Reaching in, he pulled out a black stone having an eye of light that reflected all the colors of the rainbow; he exclaimed: “This is lovely; it resembles the sun congealed in a stone.” He displayed the stone in a prominent place in his home. On his journey home the old traveler stopped again at the same farm to rest, this time visiting with the new owner of Al Hafed’s farm. When he saw the stone, he recognized it as a diamond. The old traveler and the new owner rushed to the brook in the garden and stirred up the white sands with their fingers and found more and more and more diamonds. And thus were discovered the famed diamond mines of Golconda, some of richest diamond mines of all time.
The guide concluded his story to the tour group with this moral. He said that had Al Hafed remained at home and dug in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, poverty and death in a strange land, he would have had “acres of diamonds”—because every shovelful they dug up on that old farm brought up wonderful diamonds, some of which have decorated the crowns of many of the world’s monarchs.
A Similar Tale
Here is a similar tale about events which took place closer to home. In 1847 a man owned a ranch in central California. Upon reading that gold had been discovered in southern California, he sold his ranch to a Mr. Sutter and started off to hunt for gold in southern California. Mr. Sutter, the ranch’s new owner, put a mill on the little stream on his newly purchased farm; one day his little daughter who had been playing near the mill, brought home some sand, placing it in front of the fire to dry. As the sand sifted through the little girl’s fingers a visitor saw bright, shining flakes of gold. And so began the gold rush to central California, one of the largest gold rushes in all of history. The man who had sold his farm in central California to search for gold in southern California never found gold—gold that had been on his farm all along just waiting to be discovered.
And Another Story
Here is yet another story—one that took place in Pennsylvania. A man owned a farm in Pennsylvania, but decided to sell it so he could work for his cousin collecting coal oil in Canada. He sold his farm for $833.00. He had scarcely left the farm before the man who purchased it went out to water his cattle. He discovered that the man who had sold him the farm had put a heavy plank across a stream on the property. The plank was placed so that it acted as a partial dam, holding back some scum-covered water above the plank so the cattle could drink the clear water that flowed below the plank. For 23 years the previous owner of the farm had been damming back a flow of coal oil worth hundreds of millions of dollars. The city of Titusville, Pennsylvania now stands on the site of that old farm.
One Final Story
One final story. A man was a professor of mining and mineralogy in Massachusetts. He sold the old Massachusetts farm on which he had been raised, and moved to Wisconsin to work for a mineral mining company. The farmer who bought the old farm went out to dig potatoes, and as he was carrying them in a large basket he had to pass through a gateway in the stone wall surrounding the potato patch. The ends of the stone wall came so close together at the gate that the basket barely passed through. So the farmer set the basket down, and began to remove some of the stones, first from one side, then the other. He noticed one of the stones was actually a block of native silver, later to be assayed as worth $100,000! How many times had the professor of mining and mineralogy passed by that stone in the gateway?
You may ask, “What do these stories have to do with me?” Simply put, it is this: All those men ought to have been wealthy, but, instead, they were poor. They ought to have been rich; in fact, they were; they just didn’t know it—until it was too late. At a time when you should be wealthy and prosperous, you may be poor. God wants you to prosper. A reference in a little book near the back of the Bible says this: “Dear friend, I pray you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
Deuteronomy 8: 17 and 18 tell us this: “You may say to yourself, ‘my power and my own ability have gained . . . wealth for me,’ but remember that God gives you power to create and gain wealth, and he does it to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors.” Yes, God gives his people power to become wealthy and prosperous. God wants all his children to have wealth and to be prosperous. But you must understand why. Why was Abraham prosperous? Isaac? Jacob? Joseph? Job? David? Solomon? Joseph of Arimathea? And in our times such Jesus-believers as J C Penney, R G LeTourneau, Mart Green, and many others?
The definition of wealth in the Bible is “to have all that is necessary—all that is sufficient—for one’s journey through life.”
The definition of prosperity is similar: “to have enough for one’s journey on the road of life—and enough for one’s close traveling companions such as family, loved ones, business associates, employees, and the like.”
There are 3 reasons God gives people the power to prosper and to be wealthy. As with so much that God does for us, each of the 3 reasons can be perverted, misused, and abused because we all too often make wrong choices in each of our lives. Here are the 3 reasons God gives people power to be wealthy and prosperous:
- So that God’s people will free themselves from the cruel bondage of debt and then remain financially independent.
- So that God’s children will be in a position to help finance the spread of the Kingdom of God throughout the entire earth until all people have had an opportunity to learn about God’s great salvation for all people through Jesus.
- To help other Jesus-believers have a better income and thus also help them become free from debt and then help finance the spread of God’s Kingdom throughout the earth.
Yes, for those 3 reasons—and for those reasons alone—God has given you the power to become wealthy and prosperous. Yes, I know there are many things in this life more valuable than money; yes I know there are many things in this life money cannot buy. There is much in this life sweeter and holier and more sacred than money. Nevertheless, the committed Jesus-believer knows there is not one thing in this life that cannot be greatly enhanced and even sanctified by the use of money. Love is the greatest thing in this life, but fortunate is the one who loves who also has wealth. Money has power to do much good. For a person to say, “I do not want money,” is to say, “I do not want to love my fellow humans and do them good.”
To be continued next month
Give your money back to God by giving to others; then God will return it to you through others—with bonus and blessing, good measure, stomped down, and shaken together. What comes back to you will be given back to you using the same size ‘measuring cup’ with which you gave.” –Paraphrased from Luke 6: 38
To Think About This Month
God, I know I make mistakes in handling the money you provide me. I want to make mistakes in being generous, not in being stingy!
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Revised and Updated May 2019