The year was 1870. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Russell Conwell, pastor of Grace Baptist Church, presented a lecture he entitled “Acres of Diamonds.” It 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 ancient Persia. 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 an ancient Persian 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, and 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 the 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.
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.
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. 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. When you should be wealthy and prosperous, you have no right to be poor. You have every right to be prosperous. As long as you understand one basic, fundamental, bedrock principle: It is God who gives you the power to create wealth and prosperity! Yes, Deuteronomy 8: 17 and 18 tell us this:
“Don’t feel it is your own strength and energy that makes you wealthy. Always remember that it is the LORD your God who gives you the power to create wealth, and he does it to fulfill the covenant he made with your ancestors.”
Yes, God gives all 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, 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 have free will to make wrong choices in each of our lives. Here are the 3 reasons God gives people the power to be wealthy and prosperous: 1. So that God’s people will free themselves from the cruel bondage of debt and then remain financially independent. 2. 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. 3. 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.”
Money—or the lack thereof—plays a very important role in the basic happiness and mental and emotional health of most people. Like it or not, money often governs the way you think, feel, and live your life on a daily basis. If you don’t have enough money, then money often becomes the focal point of your world, and it will negatively affect virtually every aspect of your life. However, if you do have enough money for your life’s journey, it will free you to pursue God’s plans and purposes for your life in a positive way. Anyone who feels that money is not important is deceived.
It is wonderful to live one’s life here fulfilling God’s grand plans and purposes for one’s life; to spend one’s time creating wealth and prosperity in order to show love and do good in tangible ways is a wonderful pursuit. And yet there is a religious prejudice so great that some people honestly feel it is a great honor to be poor. To strive to be poor—as many truly do—is wrong; it is a great weakness; one who does so is untruthful to God’s revelation of wealth; to seek to be poor is to be unkind to one’s fellow humans. Yes, if we can create wealth by honorable and biblical methods, we ought to pursue the goals of wealth and prosperity. Often (not always), people are poor because of faulty teaching, wrong beliefs, or because of incorrect choices they have made along their journey. And . . . some people are poor because they are lazy.
But God does not want his children to be poor. It is not spiritual, holy, or godly to be poor. God wants his children—you—to have enough for your journey and for that of your close traveling companions. “But, wait a minute,” You say, “Jesus—the very one whom we are called to follow and emulate—became poor; it says so right in the Bible!” You’re absolutely right. The Bible does say that Jesus became poor. But don’t stop there; read the entire verse where that is found: 2 Corinthians 8 :9: “Though Jesus was very rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” Jesus was poor only in comparison to the tremendous riches he left behind in heaven while he was here for 33 years. But while he was here he was not poor in human terms; Jesus always had enough for his journey—and that of his close traveling companions—while he was here on earth.
For example, Jesus’ ministry and entourage was large enough that he required a treasurer. A treasurer is not necessary unless there is a lot of money in the “treasury.” Another example: Jesus wore a seamless robe. That’s equivalent to a man wearing a fine, tailor-made, very expensive silk suit in today’s male fashion terms. Jesus paid taxes. In order to pay taxes, he either had to have an income, own a home, or both. My personal opinion is that Jesus owned a rather spacious home in his headquarters city of Capernaum, but it’s not a belief I would argue about. Perhaps you’re questioning right now: “Maybe you are correct in what you have just said about Jesus, but what about that time Jesus said, ‘Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head.’?”
Here’s at least a partial answer to your question. At the time Jesus made that statement, he was passing through the region of Samaria on his way to Jerusalem. He sent his disciples ahead to make arrangements to stay the night in a nearby Samaritan village. The citizens of that village turned them away, because most Samaritans would have nothing to do with their Jewish “cousins” (much like the antagonism today between Jews and Palestinians in modern Israel). So . . . in response to being turned down for a night’s lodging, Jesus made that statement. He was simply saying that he was having difficulty finding a place to stay that night on his journey to Jerusalem. He was not saying he was so poor that he never had a decent place to sleep. Well, there you have it. Just a few examples to illustrate that Jesus was not poor during his 33 years here on earth. What’s the point? God does not want us to be poor either during our journey here on earth.
In our society, most (not all!) believers in Jesus who are poor (who do not have enough for their journey) are poor because they have either (1) made some wrong choices in life, or (2) they have believed untrue teaching about money or about how it is godly to be poor, or (3) because of laziness. (Read the Book of Proverbs if you doubt that third point.)
Someone else may say: “The Holy Scriptures declare that money is the root of all evil!” Wrong! That statement is not in the Bible! That is in the muddled thinking of narrowness and poverty of thought. “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” The greedy grasping for money is the root of all evil. The inordinate preoccupation with obtaining money is the root of all evil. Money in itself is neither good nor bad; it is merely a medium of exchange used for commerce during this life. In fact, sometimes money itself is the root of much good! It is the unholy fixation and striving for money to pursue one’s own ends that is evil—not money in and of itself. Yes, the LOVE of money is the root of all evil.
It is when a person makes an idol of money that it is wrong. Think of what you could do if you had more money and were motivated purely by God in what you did with your wealth. Think of what you could do for your family and loved ones; for your Church; for missions; for the spread of God’s Kingdom on earth. Often we have a prejudice against money because we have a prejudice about how some wealthy person has misused his or her money. But that’s a problem with those types of people, not with the money they have. Not all wealthy persons misuse their money. Yes, a few do, and they are the ones who are most often in the public eye—their greed, their dishonesty, their pretentious opulence.
But what of those who produce wealth and then quietly—behind-the-scenes—give much of it to God’s causes, to charity, to good works? We don’t hear of them because they do not make the headlines and the news. There are many more of them than there are those who misuse and abuse their wealth. Many, many wealthy people are sweet Jesus-believers who give, and give, and give back to God because they know Who it is who has given them the power to create wealth and prosperity.
The question now becomes: “How do you find your ‘acres of diamonds'”? How do you create wealth? How do you become prosperous? God asked Moses: “What is that in your hand?” God has given each of us—God has placed in each of our hands—certain talents, skills, knowledges and abilities in order to create wealth and become prosperous. They are right at hand; you have in your own hands all you need to create wealth and prosperity. Your “acres of diamonds” is something within you, something within your scope of influence, something in your own hand that God has given you to create wealth and prosperity. Ask him to help you dig deep and find it. Ask him for wisdom and insight, for creative, inventive, and ingenious ideas, for thoughts that you can act upon, and to bring people into your life who can help and assist you.
When you ask God to help you begin to create wealth and prosperity, in a manner of speaking that puts him in a position where he unleashes unseen forces to go to work on your behalf, where wonderful events begin to align in your life without any human explanation, and miracles begin to take place. One thing to look for is this: Find some product or service people want and need, and then seek by godly and honest principles to fill that need. Know what others need, and then invest your time and energies in supplying that need. Success is almost certain to follow.
By the way, would you like the biblical definition of success? Here it is: “Success is for me to steadily and consistently move toward accomplishing God’s plans and purposes for my life, according to my potential; it is a journey, not a destination.”
Does where you are located make a difference in your ability to create wealth and prosperity? What if you live on the wrong side of the tracks or in a big city slum area? What if you live in a poverty stricken rural area? Does it make a difference where you live or what your background is? Does your lack of formal education make a difference? Does it make a difference whether or not you have adequate startup capital? No, it does not. Does your appearance, your weight, your age, your sex, your race make any difference? No, they do not. With modern technology, communication, and transportation, you can meet a need almost anywhere in the world if you find the right product or service. Do not feel you need to move to a big city. Do not feel you need to move to the suburbs or to a less densely populated location. For most of us, our “acres of diamonds” are right at hand; we already own it, or possess it, or think it—but we have yet to act upon it. Find the need, ask God for wisdom and insight; ask God for a spirit of discovery, creation and invention—and then do it. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your strength,” declares the Bible.
Yes, God has given you the power to create wealth and prosperity for you and your close traveling companions on life’s journey. Ask him how. Obey him when he tells you. Give back to him some of the wealth and prosperity he gives you in order to spread his Kingdom on the earth. Help others. Be part of God’s grand purposes to enrich the lives of others with the wealth and prosperity God will bring into your life. Find your “acres of diamonds” right in your own back yard, right under your feet, right at hand—and then be a means and channel of wonderful blessings to others as you help them locate and work their own “acres of diamonds”.
During a long and arduous part of our life’s journey, my wife and I discovered part of our “acres of diamonds” when God taught us how to get completely out of debt in a relatively short time: 3 years and 9 months. Yes, it took us only that short length of time to break free from a lifetime of cruel bondage to debt, including our home mortgage. Once we had accomplished that part of God’s plans and purposes for our life journeys, then we began to dig around a little more in our “acres of diamonds” and discovered God’s way for us to create wealth and prosperity. We are presently on that phase of our journey. And it is very, very exciting! We now have more money to give to God. We remain financially independent. We are able to help other Christians find and work at their own “acres of diamonds.” We have enough for our life’s journeys and for our close traveling companions.
We hope this teaching about discovering your own “acres of diamonds” has been helpful to you. God bless you. We wish you true success, wealth and prosperity during your own journey along the King’s Highway in fulfillment of God’s grand plans and purposes for your life!
Revised and updated December 2018