By Cameron Taylor
The following is a guest post by Cameron C. Taylor, author of Does Your Bag Have Holes: 24 Truths That Lead to Financial and Spiritual Freedom. Be sure to check out his blog at his website, doesyourbaghaveholes.org!
Note from Clever Dude: In this guest post, Cameron tackles the myth that there are limited resources available through the use of a story. I will claim, though, that the idea of abundance flies in the face of common belief and even I have trouble accepting it, but read below and decide for yourself…
The Story of the Farmer and the Thief
Bobby, a fifteen-year-old, took responsibility for running his familyâ€™s Arizona farm after his father became ill. Some took unfair advantage of the young man, and crops began disappearing from the fields. Bobby was angry and vowed to catch the thieves and make an example out of them. Vengeance would be his.
As his father was recovering from his illness, Bobby made his rounds through the fields at the end of the day. It was nearly dark. In the distance, he caught sight of someone loading sacks of potatoes into a car. Bobby ran quickly through the field and caught the young thief. His first thought was to take out his frustrations with his fists and then drag the boy to the farmhouse and call the police. He had caught his thief, and he intended to get his just dues.
As Bobbyâ€™s anger raged, his father pulled up in his pickup. He got out, and placed his weak hand on his sonâ€™s shoulder and said, â€œI see youâ€™re a bit upset, Bobby. Can I handle this?â€ He walked over to the young thief and put his arm around his shoulder, looked him in the eye for a moment, and said, â€œSon, tell me, why are you doing this? Why are you trying to steal these potatoes?â€
The young thief replied, â€œI didnâ€™t think you would miss them. You have so very much and I have so very little. Not everyone can be wealthy like you.â€ Then Bobbyâ€™s father asked the young thief, â€œWhy do you think I have this large farm and comfortable home?â€ â€œBecause your dad gave them to you,â€ replied the boy. Bobbyâ€™s father chuckled and put his arm around the young boy. He walked the thief to an area where he could see the undeveloped desert that surrounded the potato farm and said, â€œThirty years ago, this is what my potato farm looked like. I originally purchased 10,000 acres of desert land for $27 per acre. Through years of hard work, I transformed the land that was producing very little value into a thriving potato farm which is now worth $3,500 per acre. As a result of years of hard work and industry, I was able to improve this property to the point where now what I purchased for $270,000 is worth $35 million.â€
The thiefâ€™s eyes widened and he said in amazement, â€œYour farm is worth $35 million. Donâ€™t you think it is selfish to have so much?â€ Bobbyâ€™s father asked, â€œSelfish, what do you mean?â€ â€œWell, if you have so much, that means there is now less for others. Not everyone can be wealthy,â€ stated the young thief.
Bobbyâ€™s father replied, â€œWhen I breathe, does it lessen the amount of oxygen available for you and your family? Is the person who exercises and thus breathes more oxygen selfish because he is taking more than his share of the oxygen?â€ Perplexed, the young thief replied, â€œOf course not. There is enough oxygen for everyone to breathe as much as they want.â€ Bobbyâ€™s father asked, â€œWhy is there plenty of oxygen?â€ â€œI donâ€™t know. Why?â€ responded the boy.
Bobbyâ€™s father explained, â€œBecause oxygen can be created. Since oxygen is created in abundance, we donâ€™t have to ration it so we donâ€™t run out. Wealth can also be created and thus can be as abundant in our lives as oxygen. We can have as much wealth as we are willing to work to create. To say it is impossible for everyone to be wealthy is as irrational as saying not everyone can breathe as much oxygen as he or she wants. The earth is designed to create, produce, and increase.
For example, from a single apple seed you can grow a tree that will produce hundreds of apples each year. Two chickens can be multiplied to feed thousands of people. Once we understand that wealth can be created, we will believe that there is enough in the world for everyone to succeed and, as a result, one does not have to become successful at the expense of others. The success of one does not limit anotherâ€™s ability to succeed.
â€œIf every person produced to his or her potential, everyoneâ€™s needs would be satisfied with a great abundance. For example, the earth is capable of producing food for a population of at least 80 billion, eight times the 10 billion expected to inhabit the earth by the year 2050. One study estimates that with improved scientific methods the earth could feed as many as 1,000 billion people. (Stephen Budiansky, â€œ10 Billion for Dinner, Please,â€ U.S. News & World Report, 12 September 1994, p. 5762) In 1930, there were approximately 30 million farmers in the United States, barely producing enough food to feed a population of approximately 100 million people. Technological breakthroughs in agriculture during the next fifty years made farming so efficient that by 1980 approximately 3 million farmers were producing enough food for a population of more than 300 million. This represents a 3,000 percent increase in productivity per farmer.â€ (Paul Pilzer, God Wants You to Be Rich, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995) p. 1819)
The young thief then asked, â€œIf the world is capable of feeding hundreds of billions of people, why are people starving?â€
â€œThis is a great question,â€ continued Bobbyâ€™s father. â€œRemember that I said if every person produced to his or her potential, everyoneâ€™s needs would be satisfied with a great abundance. There are two problems. First, not everyone is producing. Second, there are those who seek wealth by taking what others have produced rather than creating it themselves. When someone seeks wealth by taking someone elseâ€™s production, they are stealing. Were you creating or stealing when you attempted to take the potatoes from my farm?â€
â€œI was stealing,â€ replied the young thief. Bobbyâ€™s father continued, â€œOne of my favorite stories in the Bible is Jesus cleansing the temple. The Lord calls those who use the capitalist system to become takers instead of creators thieves. In New Testament times, there were those outside the temple who used scales of questionable accuracy for exchange and who took advantage of religious pilgrims who traveled to the temple by charging inflated prices. In response to these actions, â€˜Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.â€™ (Matthew 21:1213, King James Version) Many business practices may be legal in the courts of earth but those who steal from their customers with inflated prices or steal from their employees by oppressing them in their wages will be called thieves when judged by the law of God.â€
Then the young thief asked, â€œSo are businesses and wealth bad things?â€ In response, Bobbyâ€™s father continued, â€œBusiness and wealth can be good or bad. The question to ask is, â€˜Was value created or stolen?â€™ Jesus was not condemning money or business but the fact they were achieving it by stealing. Christ taught us not to obtain wealth through theft and taking from others which destroys. Instead, He taught us to obtain wealth by creation and production which creates life and abundance, saying â€˜The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.â€™ (John 10:10, King James Version)â€
The young thief then said, â€œI have one last question. Why do people believe they can only succeed at the expense of someone else?â€
Bobbyâ€™s father answered, â€œThe root cause is a belief in scarcity, that there is a fixed amount of wealth. With a scarcity belief, if one person gains more financially it means another has less. A great example of scarcity mentality is population control. Those who believe in population control believe there is a fixed pie of resources. Thus, if there are more people, each person will get a smaller piece of the pie. With a scarcity mentality, the only way to increase the quality of life of each individual is to reduce the number of people. Thus as population is reduced, each person receives a larger piece of the pie.
â€œGood Christians will not achieve wealth by taking it from others; thus, if they belief the world has a fixed amount of wealth, they will feel guilty the more they receive because that means less for someone else. Once Christians understand that they can create wealth, they will also understand that as they create wealth they are improving the lives of societyâ€”not taking from them. A belief that the world is abundant and that wealth can be created is essential to creating prosperity for you and for society. â€˜The more we develop an abundance mentality, the more we love to share power and profit and recognition, and the more we are genuinely happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of other people. We believe that their success adds toâ€”rather than detracts fromâ€”our lives.â€™(Stephen R. Covey, Principle-Centered Leadership, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991) p. 159)â€
In gratitude, the young thief said, â€œWhen I was caught stealing, I expected to be punished, but instead you showed me kindness. Thank you. I have learned a lot today.â€
Bobbyâ€™s father invited the young boy to walk with them to the farmhouse. When they got there, Bobbyâ€™s father asked the young thief what items he and his family needed. He graciously gave them to the boy. Voluntarily, month-by-month, the young would-be thief paid for all the food Bobbyâ€™s father had given him, including the sacks of potatoes.