The story of the Welshman who stole gold and silver from King Arthur’s cave and what it teaches us about the consequences of being greedy.
(When A Knight Won His Spurs, Come and Praise no. 50)
If you love money, you will never be satisfied; if you long to be rich, you will never get all you want. Ecclesiastes 5:10
The pictures should be shown on PowerPoint as the story is told. The ( ) shows when the slide should be changed. To attract the pupils’ attention, we recommend the first slide is already on display as they enter.
The Main Text
We all like to have enough money. We need it to buy the things that make our everyday lives pleasant and comfortable, such as food, clothes and a place to live. But do you sometimes dream about what you would buy if you had more than enough money? What if you had so much that it would never run out?
I expect you can think of lots of things that you would buy for yourself – perhaps new games, toys and clothes; you can probably think of some things that you would buy for your friends and family – such as luxury houses, cars and holidays, and maybe you would also give away some money to your favourite charities.
Life would certainly be easier if we had a limitless supply of money. But do you think it would make you happy? Having too much of something can make people greedy. And greedy people are never satisfied with what they have. They always want more. The man in our story today was greedy. He had plenty of gold but he was not content. It just made him want more and more.
This story is said to have happened a long time ago in south Wales. It was the sixth century and a great warrior called King Arthur ruled Wales. A young man quarrelled with his father and left home to seek his fortune in England.
As he was walking along the road he met a farmer. The farmer had some cattle to sell and he wanted someone to take them to London for him.
“Leave it to me. I will take good care of your cattle,” said the young man.
Before he set off he chose a long, straight branch from a nearby hazel tree. He cut it off and made a strong walking stick to help him on his long journey. After a few days he arrived in London.
He sold the herd of cattle for a good price and was just wondering what to do next when a stranger stopped alongside him and asked him where he came from.
“I come from my own country.” he replied, not wanting to give too much away.
“And what is your name?” asked the stranger.
“The one my father gave me.” he answered cautiously.
“And where did you get your stick?”
“I cut it from a hazel tree a long way from here,” said the young man, who was by now starting to get annoyed with the stranger’s many questions.
“Now what would you say if I told you that from that stick I can make you gold and silver?”
“I would say that you are a wise man.” said the young man, now becoming a little more interested.
The stranger told him that the tree that he cut his stick from grew over the spot where a huge supply of treasure lay buried.
“If you can take me there,” he said, “the treasure will be yours.”
So without any delay they set off together back to Wales. The young man showed the stranger the exact tree from which he had cut his stick. The two men cut down the tree and lifted away the spreading roots. Underneath was a large flat stone. When they lifted the stone they found a long narrow passage disappearing into the hillside. They went inside and crept along the passage. When they got to the end there was a large bell hanging down from the roof.
“Never touch this bell,” the stranger warned, “or disaster will surely follow.”
So the young man carefully walked around the bell without touching it.
Then they came to a huge cavern and saw a thousand warriors lying sleeping on the floor. They were all dressed in their armour. Their swords, shields and helmets shone in the darkness. In the centre slept King Arthur himself, the jewels in his crown glistening like stars. The stranger whispered to him that the warriors were waiting for the bell to ring.
“When they hear the bell they will rise up and drive their enemies into the sea.” he explained.
Then the young man noticed something shining in the corner of the cavern. It was a pile of gold coins. Then in another corner he saw a pile of silver coins.
“Help yourself to as much as you want,” the stranger said, “but you must only take treasure from one of the piles. You must not take from both.”
So, the young man eagerly loaded his pockets with gold. When he could carry no more, they started their journey back along the narrow passage.
“Remember not to touch the bell,” warned the stranger as they set off. “But if this does happen and one of the warriors wakes and asks ’Is it day?’ you must answer straight away, ‘No! Sleep on.’”
Can you guess what happened when they reached the bell? As the young man was squeezing past with his bulging pockets of gold he accidentally knocked the bell. At once a loud booming sound echoed along the passage.
One of the warriors lifted his head.
“Is it day?” he asked.
“No,” replied the young man, “Sleep on.”
At these words the warrior lowered his head and went back to sleep. The two men continued their journey. They were very glad to eventually reach the bright sunlight at the end of the passage. The stranger said goodbye to the young man, leaving him with a warning,
“If you use your gold wisely, you will not need any more for the rest of your life. But if you decide to come back, as I think you will, you may help yourself to as much as you want from the silver pile. Then do not come back a third time.”
As the stranger had predicted, eventually the time came when the young man had spent all his gold. So for the second time, he went to the cave. This time he took only from the silver pile.
On the way out his elbow brushed against the bell and it rang. This time three of the warriors woke up.
“Is it day?” asked one of them.
“No,” replied the young man quickly, “Sleep on.”
As before, the men lowered their heads and went back to sleep.
For the next couple of years the man was happy spending his money on whatever he wanted. But again the time came when he did not have any left. So even though he had been warned against it, he returned to the cave.
This time he took from both the gold and silver piles. He stuffed his pockets so full that he could hardly fit down the narrow passage to get out. He could not help knocking the bell on his way past.
“Is it day?” a voice called out.
For a moment the young man forgot what he was supposed to say in answer. But it was too late. Before he could think of the words all the warriors had sprung to their feet. They waved their swords ready for battle.
Then King Arthur himself stood up,
“The time is not yet,” he said in a loud voice.
Slowly he turned around and pointed at the young man who was trembling under the weight of his gold and silver at the entrance to the passage.
“Would you march out for him?” he said.
At these words one of the warriors picked him up and raised him high into the air. He turned him upside down and the gold and silver fell from his pockets onto the cave floor. Then he flung him down the passageway and rolled a big stone across the entrance to the cavern.
In great pain, the young man managed to crawl slowly out into the daylight. He realised how stupid he had been. He had lost all the gold and silver. He had none left at home because he had wasted it on things he did not need. He should have been satisfied with what he had taken on the first two occasions. He should have been more careful with the money he had. But it was too late now. When he eventually recovered he told no-one of his adventures, but he had learnt his lesson.
When people want money and the things it can buy more than anything else, it causes all sorts of problems. It makes people selfish and miserable. Sometimes it makes people lie, cheat or steal. God is not against us having nice things and enjoying ourselves. But Jesus teaches us that it is better to give than to receive. He wants us to be giving people instead of selfish people.
Dear Lord, we remember that it is better to share our money and possessions than to keep them to ourselves. Help us to use our money sensibly and not to be greedy. Help us to be generous and use our money to help others as well as ourselves. AMEN