Shelby G. Floyd
I’m sure that all of us have heard the old saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” or the saying that is similar to that, “All that glitters is not gold.” How much land does a man really need? You might say, “Well, I don’t really know. How much land does a man really need?” That’s what we are going to attempt to answer in the course of our lesson.
I do know that when we are young we had high hopes and we had great ambitions to reach out and to be successful and to find wealth and fame and land and houses and prestige and prominence and position and power. But as we get older, sometimes we realize that those things are just ephemeral; they are transitory and they are not as valuable and as important as we thought when we were younger.
THE STORY OF PAHAM
The Russian writer, Tolstoy, tells the story about a peasant in Russia and he had been working on the land from the time that he was a child. Now he is older, he is married and he has a family and he says to his wife one day, “We’ve been working in this field with our hands from the time we were a child and if we do not become a landowner, we are going to die just like we are right now—penniless and we’ll still be working with our hands.”
So, they continued to work the land and one day they heard that a neighbor was going to sell her land. She had three hundred acres and already one of his friends had bought fifty acres and Paham, as his name was, went to his family and said, “We have to buy some land. It’s for sale and if we don’t buy it now, perhaps we will never have any land.” So they talked to each other and tried to figure out how they were going to buy ten or fifteen or twenty acres of land, so they finally decided they would sell their colt. They sold their colt. They sold half of their beehive. One of the sons he contracted out to be a laborer and got the wages in advance. Finally, he was able to raise enough money to buy forty acres, because the woman that was selling the land had agreed that she would take half of the price of the land in cash and then she would take the rest of it one year later. So he bought forty acres and he borrowed some seed and put out a crop of corn and the seasons were very favorable and he prospered and he sold his crops. He was able to pay off his debts at the end of the year and he still had some money left. He continued to do this year in and year out and he was now a landowner.
Beyond The Volga
But one day some people came by and they told him that beyond the Volga there was some land that was very rich, that the grass would grow as high as your head, the dirt was black and that it was very productive and that if he would leave the plot of land that he had now, the forty acres, and go beyond the Volga, he could buy some of this land that was a lot more fertile and he could do a lot better.
So Paham, being the ambitious man that he was, decided that they would sell their forty acres and he did so and they loaded up the family and their carts, and their wagons and took off beyond the Volga and when he got there he found out that his friends had told him the truth. The land was rich, fertile and he bought a larger farm there beyond the Volga and he began to put money in the bank and the crops were so productive and he was so happy. But after a while, he didn’t have enough land that he wanted to farm, so he had to rent some more farm land in addition to that which he had bought and it also was productive and he continued to save money and do well, but he wasn’t satisfied, he was not happy, it was not enough.
The Land of the Boshkers
One day a land buyer and seller came by and he said, “Way off in the land of the Boshkers a person can get all the land that he wants and I have heard that it is really cheap. For a thousand rubles you can buy thousands of acres of land.” So Paham in his imagination and his mind is excited. He sees these thousands of acres that he could buy if only he would go to the faraway land of the Boshkers. So he leaves his wife, children and family and makes his trip to the land of the Boshkers and takes a servant along with him. Finally, the land buyer and seller told him that the way to buy this land is you’ve got to be friendly to these chieftains that own all of these thousands of acres. So he bought some clothes, food and gifts and when they approached the land of the Boshkers, sure enough all of these tribe people came out from their village. They set up a tent for him. They killed a sheep and they had mutton and they fixed a fine meal for them and he also brought his gifts out and he gave them to the chieftains and they wanted to know why he would come from such a far distance and he said, “Well, I have come to buy a lot of land. I hear that you have a lot of land for sale.” And they said, “Oh yes, we have thousands of acres. Just lift up your eyes and look across the plains—all the land that a man would want.” He said, “Well, how much is it?” They said, “Its a thousand rubles a day.” He said, “A thousand rubles a day. I’ve never heard of anybody selling land for a thousand rubles a day. How do you figure it?” They said, “We don’t know how to figure it. We have so much land that the only way we know how to sell it to somebody is you start at a certain point and you start early in the morning just at sunrise and all the land that you can walk around in a day’s time is yours for a thousand rubles.”
A Thousand Rubles A Day
And Paham says, “It’s a deal. We’ll start out the first thing in the morning.” So he is so excited that he can’t sleep that night. He lies there in his tent. All he is thinking about is how many miles he can walk around in a day and all of that land will be his for a thousand rubles. So finally he hardly slept a wink and he realizes that it’s the first light of day and he gets up and calls his servant and they go and meet the chieftains and they want to have a meal and he says, “No, I’m too excited. I’ve got to get started. I don’t want anything to eat.” So he took some bread along with him. He took a flask of water that he carried with him and a shovel. And they said, “This is the way you do it. You start out at the sunrise and you go for a mile or two or three and you take your shovel and you dig a hole in the ground and you take the sod and you lay it in a pile there and that’s the marker. Then you go on another three or four miles and every place that you feel like you need to make a landmark, you dig down and lay the sod.” So as the sun was coming up, they put the hat from the chieftain on the ground and they took his thousand rubles and put it in the hat and the chief said, “This is the starting point. It’s up on a hill. Now you’ve got to be back here tonight before the sun goes down or you will lose all of your money, but if you can make this circumference around all the land in a day’s time and get back here before the sun goes down, it’s all yours for a thousand rubles.”
Which Direction Shall I Go?
So he says, “Which direction shall I go?” He decides that he will go to the east. As the sun was coming up, he takes off toward the east. And he goes about two or three miles. He looks back and he can barely see the people on the hill looking at him as he goes. He thought he had gone three miles, he goes another three, looks back, takes his shovel out, digs a hole in the ground, piles the sod there for a marker. He is six miles toward the sun and its getting way up in the morning and he thought, “Oh, I’ve gone far enough. I don’t want to go too far and miss it all. So finally, late in the morning, he turns back north. He walks and he walks and he walks and, of course, he had gone the longer distance while it was cool in the morning. Finally, he has gone a long way and its way up in the afternoon, like two or three o’clock in the afternoon. He sees a damp place in the north and he thought, “Oh, I need that damp place. That would be a good watering place for my cattle. I can’t let that go.” So he takes a little bit longer and walks around that and makes his marks and then finally he says, “Well, maybe I’ve gone too far. I hope that I haven’t been too greedy. I’ve got to get back before the sun goes down. So I had better make my turn.”
He makes his turn and he starts back toward the west. He walks and he’s getting hotter. The sun is up and he’s getting tired and thirsty and finally his feet are getting tired and he takes his shoes off and starts walking barefooted. He has to stop and take a drink. He eats his food and he’s beginning to have doubts whether he’s going to make it back because the first side was too long and now he’s headed back and he thought he was going to miss it all, “I’ve got to make this side on the west shorter than I did as I walked to the east.” So he cuts it short and finally he heads back south to the hillock where he had started. The sun is beginning to go down. His feet are bleeding. He’s about out of breath. He is beginning to think he is not going to make it, “It’s still a long way off. It’s several miles and the sun is beginning to go down. The shadows are lengthening,” he says to himself. The people are cheering him on, but he is beginning to have doubts that he is going to make it. That’s even causing him to lose his breath, because he’s so worried about it.
Well Done, the Land Is Yours
Finally, as he approaches the hillock where he started out it looks like the sun has gone down and he is almost ready to give up, but then he realizes that he is downhill and what looks like the sun having already set to him doesn’t mean that is the case where the people are standing, so they’re cheering him on and finally he rushes up and falls down at the hat and grabs it. And the chieftain says, “Well done, the land is yours.”
HOW MUCH LAND DOES A MAN NEED? ABOUT SIX FEET!
But his servant comes running up to him and shakes. Blood is coming out of Paham’s mouth and he sees that Paham is dead. He takes the shovel and he starts at his head and he digs a plot of ground six feet long. How much land does a man really need? The moral of this story is he only needs six feet. They buried him right there. He reached out for too much. He was too greedy. All we need is six feet of land.
THE STORY OF SQUIRE BOONE
A few weeks ago, Sarah and I went down to Corydon, the first state capital of Indiana, spent the night there and the next day we drove down to Squire Boone Village about eight or ten miles south of Corydon. I had bought a little book there in the hotel about Squire Boone and I have always loved to read about Kentucky, the Indians, and Daniel Boone. I read all kinds of books like that when I was growing up and my imagination was always fired up about the Indian fighting. I loved it and it hasn’t changed. I enjoyed reading that little book about Squire Boone Jr. (1744-1815). He was the younger brother of Daniel Boone.
The Yadkin Valley
The Boone’s were born up in Pennsylvania, but they were not satisfied in staying there. They always wanted to reach out into the wilderness and explore and find new land. So they moved their family, Daniel and Squire and all of them moved down to the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina. They built their cabins and their fort around it and they didn’t stay there very long until Daniel and several of his friends decided they were going to go up to Kentucky. The Indians called it “Kantuckee” and they were going to go up there and explore that land.
So Daniel and five other people from the Yadkin Valley went up through the Cumberland Gap and on up into Kentucky, just south of Lexington and the Kentucky River and they describe in this book what a beautiful land it was. They said you could look across the valley and there were buffalo just roaming everywhere. There were deer, bear, and just every kind of game that you could possible want to hunt. So they stayed there for about a year, the six of them. They didn’t see any Indians. They collected pelts and furs. They had their horses all loaded down and toward the end of the year they kind of let their guard down, because they hadn’t seen any Indians. So they said, “Maybe we had better head back to the Yadkin Valley to our families.” They had been gone for a year. For some reason or another, Squire Bone did not go with them on this trip and he became worried about them when they were gone for so long, so he decided that he and another fellow would take some horses and some supplies and they would go to meet them in this wilderness.
Squire Boone Goes to Meet Daniel
So Daniel Boone and his company divided up. Four of them went one way and Daniel and another guy went a different direction. They thought that both of them would explore the land. So they began to let their guard down and one night the Indians captured Daniel and his friend. They took all of their pelts and furs and everything they had been able to collect for a year and kept them in captivity. The way they got out of it was that they acted like they weren’t afraid of them; they acted like they weren’t trying to escape, when all the time it was just simply a ruse. They were playing possum. So one night the Indians were getting sleepy and they made up their minds that this was the night they were going to run away. Sure enough, the Indians fell asleep and they took off and they had gone a long way trying to get away from them and all of a sudden they saw these two men on horses and they think they are going to get captured by Indians again, but as it turned out it was Squire Boone and a friend and they had brought them all of these provisions. So Daniel decided he wasn’t going to go back after they brought him provisions. He stayed in what they called back then “the dark and bloody land of Kentucky.” He stayed there all winter long by himself without a dog or without a horse in the land of Kentucky and Squire and the other fellow went on back to the Yadkin Valley.
Squire Boone Had Thousands of Acres
But in the course of time he came on up into Kentucky and established a settlement at Boonsboro, and built a fort. Later on he went to Harrodsburg and lived there for a while. Then he went down to Florida and decided they might go down there and live, but they didn’t like Florida—too many briars and thorns and snakes and bugs and all that, so they came on back up to Louisville. They stayed there a while and then they went to Mississippi and up to Missouri. They were always moving around and Squire Boone had thousands of acres that were deeded to him. Back then all you needed to do to get some land was to go and take a rock and mark off the boundary just like Paham did and put out a corn crop for one year and build an improvement on the land and that would deed you four or five hundred acres, plus a thousand acre option. He had land deeded to him from Boonsboro, Louisville, Harrodsburg, all over Kentucky, but he would only stay there one year, raise a corn crop, put an improvement on it, and go off searching for some more.
Squire Boone in Indiana
But finally Squire Boone decided he would go up into Indiana. He was reaching out into new territory and he lived around Corydon, Indiana. One day the Indians got after him and he had remembered seeing this cave in the side of a hill and on top of this hill was another entrance that went down into the cave. The Indians were after him and he was running away as fast as he could and he remembered that hole in the top of that hill, so he grabbed hold of a grape vine and swinging on it dropped down in the top of that cave and covered it up real quick with branches and leaves and all that and he said he could hear the Indians up there walking around, searching for him and they couldn’t find him. Finally, they gave up and went away.
Squire Boone Buried In a Cave
Basically, he spent most of his time, which was maybe fifteen or twenty years just south of Corydon, Indiana. When he got to be an old man he told his sons, “When I die, I want you to bury me in this cave,” because he felt that was holy ground, that God had preserved his life by providing that cave for him to escape the fate that would surely have been his if the Indians had found him. So he himself made a fine casket out of walnut and his sons buried him in that cave in that casket. I am sure that the family and friends knew about it for years, but after one hundred fifty years everybody forgot about it and one time down in southern Indiana there were a couple of young boys out exploring and went in this cave and got to looking around in there and noticed the fragments of a casket. They had actually buried him too close to the entrance to the cave and there was moisture and the casket had decayed. They got to digging down in the dirt and actually there’s a picture in the book of them holding up his skull. They found his bones, his remains. So, of course, the historical society was formed and they built a new walnut casket and buried him farther back in the cave.
How Much Land Did Squire Boone Need?
I have said all of this because Squire Boone was reaching out for more land, and we’re glad the pioneers had that type of spirit, and they were always reaching out to go into more territory. When it was all said and done, how much land did Squire Boone really need? All he really needed was six feet in that cave just south of Corydon, Indiana.
THE STORY OF ABRAHAM AND LOT
Now let’s go to the Bible and see if we can see how much a land a man really needs. Do you remember the story of Abraham and his nephew, Lot? I don’t know what happened to Lot’s father and mother, but it seems like Abraham raised him, and he loved his nephew, Lot. They left and went off into a land that God would show them and they both were blessed by God greatly. Abraham and Lot both had cattle and flocks and they had gold and silver and they had all kinds of blessings.
There Was Strife in the Family
Finally, there was strife, an argument between the herdsmen of Abraham’s cattle and the herdsmen of Lot’s cattle. Abraham was a peaceful type of man and he called Lot his nephew and he said, “We’re brethren. Let there be no strife between you and me and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen. The whole land is before us. You make the choice, Lot. If you go to the right, I’ll go to the left. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right. Let’s separate ourselves. We can no longer stay together and live at peace.”
Lot was basically a good person, but he was selfish and ungrateful for what his uncle had done for him, so Lot lifted up his eyes and he saw the well-watered plains of the Jordan Valley and he chose that land. He chose the good land, but the Bible says that the people of that area were very wicked before the Lord. That was the land of Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible says he pitched his tent toward Sodom. That is, he headed toward those wicked cities.
God’s Promise to Abraham
God told Abraham, “You look to the north and you see the east and west and I am going to give it all to you. Your descendants will be as numerous as the stars in heaven and as the sand on the seashore.” He promised Abraham a great blessing. “Furthermore, Abraham, in your seed I will bless all the nations of the earth” (Genesis 12:1-3).
As time went on, Lot and his family continued to edge closer and closer to the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Finally, God came to Abraham one day and He said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do. I know that Abraham shall command all of his children and shall raise them and train them and bring them up right. I’m not going to hide it from him.” So He said, “Abraham, I’ve heard the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah that’s come up before me and I’m going to go down and investigate and see if the cry of them is exactly the way that I’ve heard that it is. I am going to destroy those wicked cities.”
“I Will Not Destroy It For Ten’s Sake”
Abraham began to plead with the Lord not to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham said, “If there are fifty righteous souls in that city, would you destroy it for the sake of fifty?” He said, “No, I won’t.” Then Abraham said, “Well, what about forty, if I find forty righteous people, will you destroy it for the sake of forty?” He said, “No.” And Abraham continued to negotiate with the Lord. “What about twenty?” “No, I won’t destroy it for twenty’s sake.” And finally, he said, “Let me speak to the Lord just one more time. Will you destroy it for the sake of ten souls, if I can find at least ten righteous souls?” The Lord said, “No, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.” And Abraham was afraid to ask him for any less.
And the angels left Abraham and they headed toward Sodom and Gomorrah. As they approached the city, Lot was out by the city gate. That’s where the judges would sit and consider the cases that were brought before them. As these strangers approached the city, Lot invited them to come into his home and to spend the night. And they said, “No, we will stay in the street tonight. We’ll sleep in the street.” And he continued to urge them so strongly that finally they consented and spent the night with him.
But the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were so wicked, they were homosexual, all kinds of sinful and wicked and evil people and those homosexuals came to Lot’s house and they said, “We heard that strangers came into town tonight. Send them out to us that we may know them.” That is, know them sexually. And Lot would not allow that to be done. These men had come in under his roof and they had accepted his hospitality and he would not go along with that. But we’re thankful that the angel of the Lord blinded those people so they could not commit the wicked acts that they wanted to commit.
Fire and Brimstone
Finally, the angel said to Lot, “Get your family and get them out of this town as quickly as you can, because we’re going to bring down fire and brimstone on these cities. The wickedness of them is so great the Lord is going to destroy them.” And his sons-in-law laughed at him, mocked him. You see he had taken a family of little children into that wicked city and now they had fallen in love with the habits and the ways and evil of the people of that city and they didn’t want to leave. They liked it there. They were used to things that were going on. They had accepted it.
How Much Land Did Lot Need?
The angel took Lot and his wife and almost forcibly evicted them from these ancient wicked cities and he told them not to look back. You know the story. Mrs. Lot looked back and she became a pillar of salt. How much land did Lot and his wife and family really need? I don’t think she needed very much when she became a pillar of salt, do you? And actually Lot didn’t need it either. He cried to the Lord to let him go to a little town. He still loved the cities. He didn’t want to roam out on the wide-open plain. He just wanted a little town. He didn’t need very much land, did he? He would have been better off if he had not made that choice for more land towards the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
THE STORY OF AHAB AND JEZEBEL
In the book of 1 Kings 21 we have the story of Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab was the king of Israel, the northern ten tribes, and Jezebel was his wicked wife. He had everything that a king could possibly have. He had land and houses, but there was something that was bothering him. There was a man by the name of Naboth who had a vineyard that was right next to land that the king owned. He went to Naboth and said, “I’d like to have your vineyard. I want to increase my land holdings here at my summer place and I will buy it from you. I’ll give you a good price for it. If that’s not suitable, I’ll trade you this one that is even better.” Well, if it was better, why did he want Naboth’s vineyard, why did he want to give him another? Naboth said, “No, I cannot give you or sell you or trade you this land. It’s a family inheritance. It’s been in the family down through the years. I won’t sell it, I won’t trade it, and the deal is non-negotiable.”
Jezebel and Naboth’s Vineyard
Well, Ahab was a spineless jellyfish of a man. He went home and lay across his bed and started whimpering and crying like a little baby. His wife Jezebel came in and said, “What are you crying about?” He said, “I want Naboth’s vineyard and he won’t sell it to me, he won’t trade it. I’ll be unhappy the rest of my life because I can’t have Naboth’s vineyard.” She said, “Do you rule over the kingdom of Israel or not? If you want that land, don’t worry about it, I’ll show you how to get it. I’ll get it for you.” So she went and forged Ahab’s name on some documents and she commanded the people of that area to have a great feast and set Naboth up on high and then find sons of Belial, sons of wicked people, who would perjure themselves and who would say that Naboth blasphemed God and cursed the king and then have him put to death.
Naboth Is Dead
So they had this great feast and they put Naboth up on high and these wicked fellows came in and lied and said Naboth had blasphemed God and cursed the king and they took him out and stoned him to death. As soon as Naboth was dead, Jezebel sent a message to Ahab and said, “Naboth is dead. Go and take your vineyard.”
Ahab and Jezebel Went To the Dogs
But the prophet came to Ahab and said, “Let me tell you something. You have committed wickedness in the sight of the Lord. The place where the dogs licked Naboth’s blood, Ahab, they’re going to lick even your blood.” A little bit later they approached Jezebel and the prophet said to Jezebel, “Jezebel, the dogs are going to eat you.” That’s what we call going to the dogs.
But sure enough, Ahab went out into battle one day, he even disguised himself, but a man shot an arrow and it injured him in the joints of his coat of arms and he was sick all day long. He commanded them to stand him up in the chariot. He stood up in the chariot. He was losing blood all day long in his chariot and finally that evening he died and they took him back to the area where Naboth had shed his blood and they washed the blood out of his chariot and the dogs came over and licked his blood right in the place where they had licked the blood of Naboth.
A little bit later Jehu, a prophet, approached the town and old Jezebel stuck her head out of the upper story window, she was all painted up with her lipstick and all of her rouge, and when he looked up and saw who it was, he said, “Throw her out,” and the eunuchs that waited on her grabbed her and threw her out the window and she landed on the hard cobblestone down below. She died. Jehu and his friends went on inside to have a meal and finally he said, “She is the daughter of a king. Go out and bury her. We ought to give her a decent burial because she is the daughter of king.” They went out and you know what they found? All they could find was a skull and her palms and her feet. How much land did Ahab and Jezebel really need? They didn’t need much for Jezebel, did they? I don’t think they even needed six feet for her.
THE STORY OF THE RICH FARMER
How much land does a man really need? In Luke 12, Jesus told the story about the man that came to him and said, “Speak to my brother that he may divide the inheritance with me.” The Lord looked at the man and said,
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
UNCLE O. B. PERKINS
My uncle O.B. Perkins, who preached for over sixty five years, was living in a one-room motel room and I felt sorry for him. He said, “I don’t need very much and I’m not going to need it very long.”
My Mom gets a lot of telephone calls and she got a call from Memory Gardens and they wanted to sell her a grave plot. And being from south-eastern Kentucky she has that Appalachian wit. She said, “No, thank you, I already have one and I’m not dying to get in it!”
How much land does a man really need? He only needs about six feet and I don’t think any of you are dying to get in it! This same lesson was presented to a congregation on the west side of Indianapolis. After the service, Bill McDonnel, a member came up to me and said that he would have to take issue with what I had said. Standing about six feet five inches, he said, “I will need about seven feet of land!” He was right.
I hope you realize that we all have to set boundaries on our greed:
1 Timothy 6:6-10
6 But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. 7 For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. 8 If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
How much land do we really need? How much wealth do we really need? How big of a house do we really need? How much power and prestige do we really need? Not as much as we think. What we really need is to be rich in the Lord and I hope that you’ll confess your faith in Christ, repent of your sins and be baptized into Jesus Christ while there is opportunity. *
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon October 9, 1994, at the South Central Church of Christ, 265 East Southport Road, Indianapolis, Indiana. Copyright © Shelby G. Floyd 2002 2007 2019 All Rights Reserved
Shelby G. Floyd
Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142