I know that need, that anxiety. That compelling need to help each and everyone who comes to you for help – al least some of you. This is a mistake.
Today we look at chapter 6, “The Gold Lender of Babylon”, from The Richest Man in Babylon, which deals with this issue of offering your money, your help, your advice, your time and some how ending up the loser.
The parable told in this chapter is the tale of a donkey and a cow. The cow comes with a sappy story of how hard his work is and how much he suffers because of it, fair enough. The donkey being an expert at avoiding hard labour and being a good friend, tells him his secret of escaping hard work – it is one many of us have used in our own jobs- he pretended to be sick. Unfortunately for them both the farmer, who could understand the animals, overheard. Now the next day the cow does as the donkey advised and presto! He escapes work for that day. However, the donkey is made to take his place by the farmer who already knows the trick! Suffice it to say the donkey by the end regrets his part in the whole ordeal and with much passion and disgust tells the lazy cow to do his job in the future or risk a trip to the butcher!
What does this mean for us? What is the lesson here?
The story of the donkey and the cow was told because a very perplexed Roden the spear maker had been awarded 50 pieces of gold by the king for a job well done. His sister when she heard wanted him to lend her husband, a merchant down on his luck, the money so he could become successful. So he goes to the gold lender for advice. Now the spear maker was able to safe 3 pieces of gold over 3 years from his job, knowing how precious this windfall was he was reluctant to see it disappear in unreliable hands- even if it was family, maybe especially because it was family. Now, how often have you been faced with this dilemma? Well the gold lender gave him some solid advice: “If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friends burdens upon thyslef”. When I read this I felt attacked. Is it ever too late to learn a lesson like this I wonder. The more I thought about it, I decided that it was never too late. While many of us have experiences of lending money only to lose it to unreliable friends or family, we all or most of us will agree that such a tragedy happens to us more than once before we learn the lesson and some never learn. We are blinded by the need to help, the love that we have for that person and keeping our relationships intact by being yes men and women. What ends up happening to too may persons is that they part with their money, on a hope and a prayer and when it is not returned, they experience, heartache, heartbreak and sometimes a breakdown – depending on how much they parted with.
In the same breath, the gold lender had another word of wisdom: ” The safest loans, my token box tells me are to those whose possessions are of more value than the one they desire. They own lands, or jewels, or camels, or other things which could be sold to repay the loan”. Now you do with this bit of advice what you will, but let me just say that Roden did not trust not entrusted his brother in law with his 50 pieces of gold!
Now, another gem dropped by the gold lender is this:” …be not swayed by foolish sentiments of obligation to trust thy treasure to any one person”, mic drop. Well, mic drop because I am so guilty of this, are you? Well the good news is we all learn this lesson, whether the easy or hard way, but wouldn’t it be lovely to avoid the hard way by paying close attention to this lesson and act based on it? I think this is most definitely food for thought.
So, until next time when we try to find more diamonds in the rough, think on this, “Better a little caution than great regret”.