My Master Went Away


My master went away one night to some far-distant land.

I knew not where he went, of course, but I did understand

That he, though countless leagues away, was surely coming back.

“Do be on guard,” he ordered me, “and don’t grow one bit slack!”

His whole estate my lord did place within my wary charge.

Its fields were broad; its orchards vast.  Its granaries were large.

And all was filled to overflow with every goodly thing;

He even left behind for me his close-kept signet ring.

No sooner was he gone I heard a knock upon the door.

A beggar stood outside and cried, “Your mercy I implore!

Oh, please, good Sir,” he sadly wailed, “some kindness for the poor!”

Now, words alone are useless to a man in desperate need.

Mere tokens do but little; I must then be bold in deed.

Yet nothing in my care, I knew, belonged to me by right;

For he who owned the house and lands had left that very night.

The man who faced me now, howere, did have a right to live.

Then what was I to do for him?  My heart made answer:  Give!

Thus of my master’s store of goods I gave the pauper freely;

He went away content that night; he was quite happy, really.

Soon many days turned into weeks, and weeks stretched into years;

I shared the pain of untold poor; I wiped away their tears.

As for my master’s many goods, I gave them all away;

As for myself, deprived of all, I learned to fast and pray.

 When he returns, oft was my thought, whatever shall I say?

At last my master came to find his home, once full, stripped bare;

His treasuries were empty, for his wealth had turned to air.

He looked me steady in the eye; I shrank beneath his stare.

Yet as I gazed upon his face—and this is strange to tell—

He smiled with mirth and said to me, “You’ve done so very well.

This house was once too cluttered.  You have cleaned it out, I see.

In giving much to others, you have thus made room for me!”

My story has a lesson, a wise secret to reveal:

True charity to others is rich treasure none can steal.

This present life, for rich and poor, is full of grief and crying.

The world’s success, however great, cannot prevent our dying.

He is no fool who gives away earth’s goods, which none can keep,

To gain a home where all are rich and none shall ever weep.[1]



[1] A poetic rendering of a statement made by the Evangelical Christian missionary Philip James “Jim” Elliot (d. 1956): “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”