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 Main Index

 Chapters

 Editor's Note

 Preparations

 My Trip

 My Arrival

 The Stench & Flames

 The Cigarette Man

 The Unpersuaded

 The Valley

 The Rich Man

 The Ministry

 The Island

 The Angels

 Homeward

 Reflections

 The Bible & Hell
 

The Cleft


 
The Rich Man

I crossed out of the Valley of Valhalla, and across similar valleys, encountering many others whose circumstances and opinions were blandly different from Helgi's, though from their mutual hatred you might have supposed them opposites. Whether I was days or months or even years in traveling, I could not tell, for with no sun and moon it becomes difficult to record the passage of time, and were I to tell all the stories I fear I would weary you with countless recollections of essentially the same tale.

Though scarcely less oppressive, I would be skipping an important part of my story if I failed to tell you about the rich. Not, of course, those who are rich in righteousness and love of God, and not even all of those who were on earth wealthy in material goods. Ah... there were so many of them! Though, of course, our Lord told us clearly of the fate of those who failed to pay the workers their wages, of those who let the poor suffer at their doorsteps.

So let me relate an incident with one man, which particularly sticks in my mind because I knew him on earth. He lived up the street from me in a nice home. He attended my church.

I introduced myself as a visitor from Heaven and said, "Excuse me, Mr. Lee, Why are you in Hell, sir?" I noticed myself falling into the curious old habbit of addressing him as a superior, much as I had on earth, for he was a distinguished gentleman.

He stood and stared at me for a moment as if I was asking a stupid question. "Why boy? Because I loved money."

"But didn't you love God, too?"

"Well, I guess God didn't think so. I'm in Hell, right?

"Uh, yes, you are. Though I confess I'm a bit surprised.

"Why? Did you somehow miss reading in the Bible about the fate of the rich?"

"No, I mean Yes, I read that. But there are people in Heaven who were wealthy on earth. Why, Mark, your cousin, is in Heaven."

"Keep standing where you are, young man. You block some of the flames that sear my soul. I recognize those flames out of Heaven. They are my house and my Coca Cola stocks and my Rolex and my BMW and all the good things I had on earth."

"But there are no BMWs in Heaven."

"No? Isn't Heaven full of all good things?"

"Well, yes, but I haven't seen any stocks or bonds or things like that."

"But they're there, boy. They are there. They're mocking me. I see it and feel it in the flames. All the good things God gave me on earth to enjoy and to bless other people with, he took them away. I wanted so badly to keep them, and to add more and more to their number, and now they are gone, but at the same time I have them, and they burn my skin and mind and soul."

"But I've known people in Heaven who built great businesses and added to their wealth. Why are you the one in Hell?"

"Those guys were never serious about money. They were just having fun. To them it was like playing baseball or soccer. Money was just a way of counting. And they gave..."

"They gave?"

"Yes, boy, they gave. Money was never their idol. They helped people with it. But I just gathered and gathered and gathered.

"But didn't you believe in Jesus?"

"I shouldn't have to explain this to you, boy. If I really believed, I would have at least tried to do what Jesus wanted, now wouldn't I? As somebody once said, you live according to what you believe, not according to what you merely pretend to believe."

"So you didn't really believe."

"The boy is catching on."

"But maybe you could really believe now."

"In Jesus?"

"Yes!"

"I don't know, boy. Even though you don't seem to know your Bible very well, you know him better than I do. If I did," he said with eyes suddenly full of interest, "do you think he'd give me back my BMW and Rolex and my 500,000 shares of Coke? I mean give them back in a way that wouldn't be so painful? I've learned my lesson - really! I'll even split the Coke stock 50-50 with him. You think he'd go for that?"

"Uh, no, I really think you'd have to just forget all that."

"Look boy, I spent my whole life building up all that stuff. And now you're telling me he won't share it? He's got a ton of money. Why's he need mine?"

"Come on! You know as well as I do; he doesn't need your money. He wants your heart."

"If he doesn't need my money, why doesn't he give it back? Look, I learned my lesson. I'm offering to give half of my stock to him. Isn't that fair? Oh, I see. He's got it all now and he doesn't see any need to give me any - except, of course, through these flames that parch me. Okay, I understand. 'Possession is nine tenths of the law.' I don't think so, boy. If Mr. Rich Man can't give me back what I worked so hard to get, I don't think I want anything to do with him."

And so on.

Copyright 2003, Brad Haugaard