A certain man owned a bicycle repair shop in a busy city. Business was good because many people in his tropical country couldn’t afford automobiles, so if they had their own vehicles at all, they were bikes. At the same time, expenses were plentiful, limiting his prosperity—he just made his way in life a day at a time like pretty much everyone else.
That said, this man had one thing that made him feel rich: a small, golden statue of an ancient king that had been handed down in his family from father to son for generations stretching across several centuries. He kept it locked in a cabinet in the apartment over his shop where he lived.
But when civil unrest erupted into riots in the city, the police had to focus their efforts in the greatest hotspots, leaving looters free to roam other areas and rob people of their valuables. The shopkeeper feared he would lose both his shop and his heirloom. To protect the latter, he settled on a plan he wasn’t sure would even work. He obtained some paint that, when applied and dried, gave the appearance of dull lead; with this, he covered the statue’s surface. Because the statue’s position in the cabinet would suggest it had some value, he placed it in a haphazard way on his small desk with a stack of loose paper beneath it.
The unrest continued, and fortunately, the shopkeeper found an opportunity to escape his country with his tools, the statue, and some other belongings and to settle in a more stable country. He married in his new country and had children. The statue stood on a shelf in his home for years, looking quite dull and mundane. Over and over, he meant to say something to his family about it, to tell them the story of the king, the statue’s history in his family, and how he brought it with him from his previous home. But over time, it seemed less and less necessary, not worth thinking or talking about.
The old thing just didn’t seem all that impressive.
One day after work, the shopkeeper stared at it and almost decided to tell his family about it as they ate dinner. But it was just an old, dark, dusty statue. He could no longer remember what it looked like before he painted it. He couldn’t imagine how to remove the paint, and no one would believe him that the statue was really made of gold. It would seem like just some wild story. Maybe he should just get rid of it. Just then, his wife called from the kitchen, saying dinner was ready. The shopkeeper shook his head and left the room.
Several years later, the family was packing for a move to a new residence. He and his teenage son were packing the books and other items in the room where the statue stood. The youth picked it up from the shelf and asked about it. His father shrugged and told him to put it in the trash.
“Are you sure? It’s kind of cool looking,” answered his son. “Is he a king?”
The father looked at the statue a long time. “I suppose he was. But you can throw it away. It’s not anything that special. Just a paperweight.”
His son watched him for several moments to make sure he was serious. Then he set it down on top of a small pile of other castoffs that they would put in the dumpster later.
When the teenager gathered up an armful of things too large to put in bags, he carried them outside to the street. The items were heavy and unwieldy enough that he started losing his grip, and he dropped everything. As he bent to pick the items back up, he noticed the statue had some bright yellow lines on it. He peered closer, then lifted the statue for further examination. Some of the other objects had some hard edges that had rubbed against the statue, revealing something beneath the surface.
He didn’t know much about such things, but he wondered … was that gold underneath? Did his father know?
He ran back inside with the statue, excitement hastening his movements as he rushed back upstairs and showed his father the lines. The older man’s eyes bulged and his mouth fell open. He slowly took the statue into his own hands and ran his fingers over the bright lines.
“Is it gold?” asked his son.
The shopkeeper nodded and couldn’t help but smile. “We need to remove all this paint.”
Fortunately, the son had become proficient at Internet searches, and they found information online about how to remove the paint that the father had applied years earlier. They obtained the necessary chemicals and supplies, and after a time, the statue looked good as new.
At last, his father gathered the family and told them the stories of the king and of the statue. From then on, the statue occupied a prominent place in their home, its true nature never to be hidden and forgotten again.
Photo by Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas on Pexels.com
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This makes me think of returned missionaries who spend two years living and preaching the gospel, doing everything they can to care for this precious heirloom. But then they get home and life happens and they get busy and eventually they forget how precious the gospel is and they neglect to teach their children. Unfortunately too many actually do throw away the gold and never remember how valuable the gospel is. I’m grateful that some return to the gospel when they realize the value it holds for their children.
Thanks for the comment! That’s not an interpretation I’d thought of. It’s somewhat ironic that as a full-time missionary, we can be so willing to be visible for Jesus’s and the gospel’s sakes, but afterward when we move on to other stages of life, we don’t offer the gospel so freely.