There was once a wealthy landowner who was a very religious man. His crops were always bountiful and the entire town marveled at how much his fields produced. People would often ask him, “What is your secret?” And the man would always reply, “There is no secret, I simply do what the Lord commands. I leave exactly a tenth of my harvest in the fields for God Almighty to enjoy himself, just as the scriptures say.” And so he did. Each year at the harvest, the man would meticulously measure the yield he received from his fields and placed a tenth of his entire harvest back in the field. After harvest, there were always heaping piles of wheat in his fields. More than that, the man did all of this joyfully. He sang praises to God as he made his offering and thanked God for providing such a bounty.
The man’s favorite part of the year, though, was the day after he made his harvest offering. The night after the harvest he would go to bed with piles of wheat in his fields. But on the following morning, he would rise early to inspect his fields and find them empty. He smiled when he saw this and he would always say, “God ate well last night!” Often, he would enter town on that day and tell his friends, “You should do as I do. My fields were full of my offering last night but God came down and ate it all, and now my fields are bare. Go look for yourself!” Then he would whisper with a mischievous grin, “A fat God makes a fat harvest!” Then he would laugh loudly at himself as he slapped the friend on his back. The day after harvest was always his favorite day.
That is, until a certain year. On this year, the harvest was as plentiful as it had ever been and the man went to bed with his offering piled high in his fields. But just as he was falling asleep he sat straight up in his bed with a sudden realization. “Every year, God comes down from heaven on this night to eat my offering,” he thought to himself. “Couldn’t I go outside to my fields and perhaps see God himself?” He sat for a few moments weighing this insight. He had devoted his life to pleasing God, surely God would welcome the man and be pleased to see him. So the man left his room, put on his robe, and ventured out to his largest field.
As he got closer he saw the light of torches and what seemed like many shadows moving around the mound of the offering. As he got closer still he heard many voices, some pitched high, some low, some sounded like children. Finally as he arrived at the site of the offering, he stood in shock and horror. He saw before him, not God, but dozens of people dressed in tattered clothing filling their baskets full of wheat. Filled with rage, he yanked a lit torch out of the ground and chased the people away from the offering. “What are you doing?!” he yelled. “This is the wheat of the most High! This is not for you. You useless, ignorant fools, do you know what you have done?!” The people scattered into the darkness and he was left alone.
The next morning when he awoke, he walked through his fields as was his custom the day after harvest. But the piles of wheat were still there, only what the poor had taken last night was gone. “God must have been angered last night, he refused to accept my offering because the others had come and taken what was not theirs,” he thought. Seething, he stayed home that day and plotted for next year’s harvest.
The next year, the man piled his offering in the fields as usual, but he posted guards at the four corners of each of his fields to ensure that no one entered to steal what was God’s. he slept well that night and when he awoke he walked through the fields. But to his dismay, the piles of wheat remained in the fields. The man spoke with the guards but each of them assured him that no one had disturbed the offering that night.
The man was greatly disturbed as he went to bed that night. He rolled the events of the last two harvests around and around in his head trying to make sense of it all. He was just about to fall asleep when he sat up suddenly in his bed with a terrible realization. “It was never God who came down to eat my offering,” he thought to himself. “Every year, the poor had come and emptied my fields of wheat before dawn.” Disillusioned, the man determined to go see a priest in the morning to ask him some questions.
The next morning, the man went to the temple as he had planned. He immediately found a priest he knew well and urgently asked to speak with him. The priest smiled, “Of course, what is on your mind?”
The man began, “You know that I am a very pious man. I do everything according to the scriptures. No, I am not perfect, but I have followed the way of truth for my entire life and God has always blessed me for that.”
“Yes, I know that is true.”
“One of the things I have always been faithful in doing is sacrificing a tenth of my harvest to God. I have done it every year since I began reaping a harvest. Is that not so?”
“Of course it is. And God has clearly blessed you for that. As the scriptures say, ‘The one who offers a tenth of his harvest to the Lord will surely be blessed with abundance.’ God has been faithful to you just as you have been faithful to him.”
“That is what I thought, but I cannot get something out of my head. One year ago, I went out to my fields on the night after the harvest. I had placed my one-tenth offering in the fields as I always have. But when I approached one of the piles, I saw dozens of poor people filling their baskets with my offering.”
“Oh no, that is terrible! You must know that God is not displeased with you. God does hold you accountable for the sins of another. How was your harvest this year?”
“As plentiful as ever.”
“Ah, see, God is faithful and just. You may go in peace.”
“But that is not what is bothering me.”
“This year, I posted guards at each of my fields to ensure that no one took a single grain.”
“No one took anything. But neither did God. The piles remain in my fields as we speak.”
“That cannot be so. For the scriptures say, ‘The Almighty accepts the offering of the righteous.’ Have you sinned against God without seeking repentance?” The priest was silent as the man gathered the courage to say something. He had heard many confessions and he waited patiently for the man to speak.
“Is God even real?” said the man.
“What?! Of course,” the priest knew nothing else to say.
“Then why didn’t I see God when I went to my field? Why is my wheat still in my fields this morning. Isn’t it true that the poor have been taking my wheat all these years? It was never God. He has never come down to enjoy my offering.”
The priest thought for a moment, “But the scriptures say, ‘The Almighty accepts the offering of the righteous.'”
“I know what the scriptures say,” the man said impatiently. “But why is the wheat in my fields if it was not the poor taking it all along?”
“I can only tell you what scripture itself says, ‘The one who offers a tenth of his harvest to the Lord will surely be blessed with abundance.’ You have been blessed with abundance, so God must have taken your offering.”
“But you haven’t answered my question. What about the poor and the piles in my field this morning?”
“Your question is irrelevant is it not? God has accepted your offering and has blessed you with abundance. That should be enough for you. Go in peace.”
Frustrated, the man left. As he made his way home, he determined to never again make a harvest offering to God. It had never been God who took the offering but the man had been blessed with abundance anyways. Perhaps there was no God at all, but even if there was, why waste a tenth of his harvest when God clearly didn’t need it to be pleased?
So the man never again made a harvest offering to the Lord. And from that time on his harvests were plentiful, his riches grew, and God was very displeased with him.