March: Aesop’s Fable
In 1476 William Caxton introduced the printing press to England and became the first English retailer of printed books. He also was a translator, who translated works from Latin into English and then printed and sold them to Englishmen. This was huge because once books were translated into the local languages (called the vernacular), people no longer had to be educated in Latin to read the ancient manuscripts, including the Bible.
Caxton did not translate the Bible. That would be left to others. But on March 26 1484, he did complete a translation and printing of many of the hundreds of Aesop’s Fables, making those wonderful tales available to the few Englishmen who could read.
Aesop was a Greek slave who lived between 620 and 464 BC. He was famous for telling stories about animals that could talk, interacting with each other and with people. He also told stories about people. Each of his stories had a lesson attached to it call a moral. Familiar Aesop’s Fables include “The Rabbit and the Hare,” “The Fox and the Grapes,” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” There are over 600 others.
Aesop, of course, was a Greek pagan, not someone who loved the Lord. But his tales often have themes that support Christian virtues. Here is one.
Once there was a miser who sold much of what he had and bought a large lump of gold. He took the golden lump out into the woods behind his house and buried it under a rock. Many times a week he would go out into the woods and roll the rock over and sit there and admire his lump of gold for an hour or so. Then he would put the gold back into the hole and roll the rock over it and go home.
One day his neighbor happened to see him go out into the woods, so he followed him, hiding in the bushes. He saw the miser as he rolled the rock off his lump of gold and sat there admiring it. When the miser went home, the neighbor rolled the rock over and took the lump of gold.
When the miser discovered the gold was gone he went into a state of deep depression, moaning and wailing. The neighbor heard him and asked him what was wrong. The miser said, “I had this lump of gold, which I would come and admire from time to time, and now someone has stolen it.”
The neighbor looked around and found a rock and threw it into the hole and said, “There. Why don’t you admire this rock. Admiring a rock will do you as much good as admiring a lump of gold. Whoever has the lump of gold now will probably spend it on something useful.”
And so it is with our faith. If our faith is just something to have, something we take out from time to time to look at and admire, it is useless to us and useless to the kingdom. James, the brother of Jesus, admonishes believers to be doers of the word. Paul, toward the end of his letter to the Galatians tells us to “do good to all people.” An inactive faith is as useless as a lump of gold that just sits there. The gold is better to be spent or invested and faith is better to be put to work.