Like most great archetypal stories, there are a number of versions of the story of the precious stone out in the vast world of spiritual teaching.
In some versions it is a story of a wise woman and a hungry traveler, others feature a wise man and a villager.
Here is one version of this great story:
A traveling wise man arrived at the outskirts of a small village and settled down under a tree to spend the night. Before he could fall asleep a villager came running to meet him calling in a loud voice, “The stone! The stone! Give me the precious stone!”
“What stone?” asked the wise man.
The villager explained, “Last night I had a dream. An angel appeared in my dream and told me that if I went to the outskirts of the village at dusk I would find a traveler who would give me a precious stone that would make me rich beyond my wildest dreams.”
“The angel probably meant this stone,” he said. “I found it on a forest path just a few days ago.”
The villager pleaded with the wise man to give him the stone.Without hesitation, the wise man handed it over.
The villager returned to his village with great rejoicing, confident that the stone would bestow upon him a lifetime of security and material well-being.
The next day early in the morning, as the wise man prepared to continue on his journey, he was surprised to see his visitor from the previous evening returning.
The wise man asked, “What brings you back so early in the morning?”
The villager replied, “All night I have thought about this stone and its power to bestow fabulous. But I have come to return it to you.”
The wise man looked puzzled.
“But why?” he asked. “With this stone, you will never have to work again. All your material cares will be taken care of for the rest of your life.”
Slowly, the villager answered, “I am returning this precious stone in the hope that you might give me something even more precious.”
“What could possibly be more valuable than this rare stone?”
“Please, ” answered the villager, “give me the wealth that made it possible for you to give me this stone.”
This is a story about freedom and true wealth.
Through the night the villager had come to understand that no material gift could ever bestow upon him the freedom the wise man possessed. Such freedom is a heart quality. It does not come from any material circumstance.
All the benefits the precious stone might purchase are fragile by comparison to the eternal riches the wise man possessed.
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. (Matthew 6:19, 20)
“Heaven” is the invisible realm of eternity that permeates and transcends time and space and lives in the human heart. “Heaven” is a state we can experience in this life. It is the state in which we discover the equanimity of the wise man that left him free to let go of the material wealth of the world without hesitation.
As we enter this season of gift-giving and receiving, it is good to reflect on what it is we seek in our celebrations. If we are looking for some gift, gathering, or festive observance to satisfy the deepest longings of our heart, we will always come away frustrated and discontent.
If we allow this season of mystery to point us to the reality born in Jesus, we will find in our hearts the precious stone of love that is the eternal wealth of that Divine Presence for Whom our hearts truly long.