The Importance of Being Satisfied
True happiness comes from being satisfied and not being greedy
by Jan Edmunds (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider why we should be satisfied with what we have.
Preparation and materials
Tell the children that you are going to share a story with them and that you would like to know what they think about it after you have finished reading.
The greedy woodcutter
There was once a poor woodcutter called Ivan. He was a good, kind man, but he had had a lot of bad luck. One day when he was gathering and chopping wood, he discovered a cave in the hillside. He decided to explore.
To his amazement, Ivan found barrel after barrel of gold. He looked around him, but there was no one about. He quickly filled his pockets with as much gold as he could carry. Just as he was about to leave, a fierce old man stepped in front of him.
‘That gold is mine,’ he said. ‘Put it back.’
Ivan felt very guilty. He emptied his pockets and replaced the gold.
The old man smiled. ‘I know you are poor,’ he said, ‘so you may keep two pieces of gold.’
Ivan was extremely grateful. He thanked the old man and hurried home. He spent the money wisely, prospered and made a good life for his family. Several years went by and, even though Ivan now had a comfortable home and plenty to eat, he became dissatisfied. He thought about the cave and all the gold that was still there, and became determined to get some more.
He remembered where he had found the cave and went back to it. Sure enough, he saw the barrels full of gold were still there. He crammed as much gold as he possibly could into his pockets. Once again, the fierce old man crossed his path.
‘Put my gold back and you can keep two pieces,’ he said.
‘No,’ said Ivan. ‘I shall keep it all.’ And he rushed off, leaving the old man shaking his fists at him in anger.
When Ivan arrived home, he put his hands in his pockets, but instead of the gold, all he found were snakes, spiders and insects. He was very angry and went back to the cave. He searched and searched, but he could not find the gold. Then, the old man appeared. ‘Your greed has been your downfall,’ he said. ‘You should only have taken what you needed. Your chance of further wealth has gone.’
Then Ivan realized how foolish he had been and felt ashamed.
Spend a short time discussing the story with the children.
Ask questions about the story, such as the following examples.
- Do you think Ivan did the right thing when he filled his pockets with gold?
- Why do you think the old man let Ivan keep two pieces of gold?
- How do we know that Ivan spent the gold wisely?
- Why did Ivan go back to the cave?
- What did Ivan do that was different from the first time he visited the cave?
- What did Ivan discover in his pockets the second time he returned from the cave?
- What lesson did Ivan learn from the old man?
Read the following poem.
Sometimes, we’re never satisfied
And want more than we need.
For if we’ve really had enough
It simply means it’s greed.
We usually associate greed with food, like eating too much, but there are other ways in which greed occurs. Can you think of some?
Time for reflection
In the Bible, Jesus tells a story about a rich man who was very foolish. (You may wish to read the story from Luke 12.13–34, but this is optional.) In it, Jesus says, ‘Watch out and guard yourselves from every kind of greed because a person’s true life is not made up of the things he owns, no matter how rich he may be.’
Remind the children that the most important things in life are not our possessions. Reread the quotation and allow the children time to think about its meaning.
We thank you for all that we have.
We thank you for our families, our friends and the people we love.
We thank you for our homes and the food that we eat.
We thank you for this wonderful world.
Help us to take care of it for those who come after us.
Help us to realize that true happiness comes from being satisfied with what we have and not always wanting more.
‘For the beauty of the earth’ (Come and Praise, 11)