The Task

A man had built a prosperous business through zealous toil and honest dealings. As he advanced in age, he felt concerned about the future of his enterprise because he had no close relatives except three nephews. One day he summoned the young men and said, “I have a problem and whoever comes up with the best solution will inherit all that I possess.” Giving each of them an equal sum of money, he instructed them to buy something that would fill his large office. “Spend no more than I’ve given you,” he directed, “and be sure you’re back by sunset.” All day long his nephews sought to fulfill their mission. Finally, when the shadows lengthened, they obediently returned to make their report. Their uncle asked to see their purchases. The first dragged a huge bale of straw into the room. When it was untied it made a pile that nearly hid two of the walls. After it was cleared away, the second brought in two large bags of thistledown, which when released filled three-fourths of the room. This was even better than the first. The third nephew stood silent and forlorn. “And what have you to offer?” asked his aged relative. “Uncle, I spent half of my money to feed a hungry child and gave almost all the rest to the church. With the little I had left, I bought these matches and a small candle.” Then he lit the taper, and its light filled every corner of the room! The kindly old man realized that here was the noblest of them all. He blessed him for making the best use of his gift and gave him all his possessions.

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