January Sermon Illustrations

January 27, 2010

The Deception of Avarice

Once in medieval Rome there stood in one of the squares an image with an outstretched hand. On the forefinger of the image was a golden ring inscribed with the device "Strike Here." Men often stopped to look at the image and read the device on the finger, but they did not know what it meant. However, a learned clerk often passing the image was careful to observe the place on the street where the shadow of the finger fell.

Coming one night at midnight, he began to dig in that spot—and soon came upon a secret stairway, leading underground until it brought him into a spacious hall which was lighted by a flaming jewel on the wall. Opposite the flaming jewel there was a statue, a man holding a bow and shaft ready to shoot, and upon the forehead of this image were the words, "That which I am I am. My fatal aim none can escape." Midway in the hall there was a table upon which the cloth, the cups, the plates and knives, and all the meats and bread, were gold or studded with precious stones. Around the table, silent, motionless, and sad, were seated knights and ladies and men from every rank of life. But they were turned to stone.

The clerk looked at the scene in amazement and then, stirred by greed, began to gather up the silver and the gold. Whereupon the figures seated about the table suddenly leaped to their feet, the archer shot his arrow, and the clerk lay dead on the floor in the midst of darkness.

The image is the adversary, the tempter whose finger points to the realms of gold. The downward stair is our lusts and passions, the archer is death, the flaming jewel, life. The table heaped with gold and silver is the things of this world, the knights and ladies those whose flesh and bone have been hardened into stone by avarice.

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