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To consider the true meaning of riches.

by Janice Ross

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To consider the true meaning of riches.

Preparation and materials

  • Familiarize yourself with the story. Or you could rehearse students to tell it.


Tell the story:

The wealthy farmer stood at the door of his fine old home, gazing out over his many acres of land. Sheep grazed contentedly on the hillsides, the lake shimmered in the morning sun and the trees were in full bloom. He had never enjoyed scenery as beautiful to him as his own land seemed that day. A servant appeared, bringing him his riding horse, and the farmer was soon galloping down the lane.

Later, a little distance across the field, he came upon his old farmhand, Hans. Hans was sitting down and unpacking his lunch. He removed his hat and was just giving thanks to God for his goodness in providing for his needs when he heard his employer’s voice.

‘Good day, Hans. How are you today?’

‘Oh, it’s you, sir,’ replied Hans, looking up and smiling. ‘I didn’t hear you coming. I’ve grown rather deaf of late and my eyes are not as sharp as they once were.’

‘But you seem happy, Hans.’

‘Happy? Indeed I am, sir. I have many reasons to be happy. My heavenly Father gives me all I need. I have a roof over my head and a cosy hearth to sit by, and I have warm clothes and good food to eat. I was just saying a prayer of thanks when you arrived.’

The farmer looked at Hans’ meagre lunch – a few slices of bread and a piece of cheese. ‘I am afraid that I would feel pretty deprived if that was my dinner!’ he replied, rather scathingly.

‘But sir,’ replied Hans, ‘I am so grateful to God, because not only does he provide for me, but I enjoy his presence all the day. Let me share a dream with you that I had just last night.’

The farmer sat down beside Hans and listened to the old man’s dreamy voice.

‘As I was falling asleep, I was thinking about heaven and the happy place it will be. Suddenly I felt myself being carried to the heavenly gates. I could look in to the heavenly city. How beautiful it was. Of course, it was just a dream, but there is one thing I need to tell you so I am glad that you have come past today.’

The farmer looked rather uneasy, but Hans didn’t seem to notice and continued his story. ‘I heard a voice saying, “The richest man in the valley will die tonight.” Then I woke up. Sir, those solemn words were so clear that I haven’t been able to forget them. I feel I needed to tell you. Perhaps it is a warning.’

The farmer’s face turned pale, but he tried to hide his terrifying fears. ‘Nonsense!’ he cried. ‘You may believe in dreams but I do not!’ With that, he took a rapid farewell and galloped off.

On arriving home after his ride, the farmer suddenly felt quite exhausted. ‘What a fool I am, letting this talk of a foolish old man bother me! I am certainly the richest man in the valley, but I have no plan to die tonight! I have never been so well in my life, at least I was this morning.’

However, he couldn’t shake free from an unusual feeling of great tiredness, and as the afternoon wore on a severe headache developed. ‘My heart doesn’t seem to be beating normally either. Perhaps it would be wise to send for the doctor.’

Towards evening the doctor came. By now the farmer felt feverish and was extremely agitated. The doctor gave him a thorough examination but could find no reason for his disability. He stayed a while, trying to allay the farmer’s gloomy fears. It was almost eleven o’clock when he got up to leave. Just then the doorbell rang.

The farmer was anxious. Who could be calling at this time of night?

‘I am sorry to disturb you, sir,’ said one of his farmhands. ‘I have just come to tell you that old Hans died suddenly this evening. Would you please make arrangements for his funeral?’

So the old man’s dream had come true! The poor servant, Hans, not his rich employer, was the richest man in the valley.

Time for reflection

Old Hans was rich because of the difference that his faith made in his life.

Many people find that faith enables them to overcome life’s troubles. They believe that there is a God who loves and cares for them.

Many poor people, regardless of the religion that they hold true, and especially in the developing world, would surprise us with the richness of their lives. They may be poor financially but they are rich in their contentment, rich in family and community life and rich in faith.

Let’s spend a few moments reflecting on the ways in which we are rich.

Dear God,
Thank you for the riches of our lives.
May we receive with gratitude all that you have given us.


‘Lord of all hopefulness’ (Come and Praise, 52)

Publication date: April 2013   (Vol.15 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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