The Rich Man and His House

by Fr. Worku Wodajo

I am from Ethiopia. I grew up in an extremely poor family in a poor village in a poor country. When I was a child, I only had one meal a day.

And now I am a priest, and my people are extremely poor. They don’t have enough food or medical care, and about half the children can’t go to school because they don’t have enough food or clothing.

Just before my ordination, my father called me to him and told me he wanted to talk to me about my future life, about my becoming a priest.

“What do you want to tell me?” I asked.

“Do you know what abba means?” my father asked. In my country, we call a priest abba.

I said, “It means a father.”

“Are you able to live for Christ?” my father asked. “If you are not, it will be difficult for you.”

Then he gave me a great gift. The gift was a story, and this is the story he told me.

***

In a certain village, there was a rich man who didn’t like other people and didn’t want to be with them.

He built a house, a big house with ten rooms. He finished the house and started to live there. And his neighbors and relatives came to him. “Let us live with you,” they said. “No,” he said. “This is my house.”

His brothers came and said, “Let us live with you.”

“No,” he said. “This is my house, and I don’t want you living with me.”

So he lived alone in his big house.

One day, there was a knock on his door, and he went to open it. A man was standing at the gate.

“Who are you?” the rich man asked.

“I am Jesus. Can you accept me? Can I live in your house?”

“Yes, I can accept you. You can live in my house. But only you; no one else. I don’t want anyone else. Come. I will give you one room.”

Jesus said, “Thank you.”

The man who had ten rooms gave Jesus only one.

The next day, there was a knock on the door again, and the rich man went to open it. A man was standing there.

“Who are you?” asked the rich man.

“I am a devil.”

The rich man shut the door and ran to Jesus. “Jesus, while you are in my house, a devil came and knocked at my door! Why didn’t you come and send him away?”

Jesus said, “This is not my house. It is yours.”

The man started to think. “I am a sinner. I am greedy. I gave for my Lord only one room. And he is disappointed.”

He ran back to Jesus and said, “I am a sinner and I am greedy. I think you are disappointed that you only have one room. I will give you another room, and you will have two.”

Jesus, said, “Thank you.”

The next day, there was a knock on the door again.

It was the same man, the devil. Again, the rich man shut the door ran to Jesus.

“Jesus, the devil is here again. Why don’t you keep him away?”

“This is not my house,” said Jesus. “It is yours.”

The rich man thought to himself, “I am a sinner, and I am greedy. I gave to my Lord only two rooms.”

He ran back to Jesus and said, “I will give you five rooms. Five for you, and five for me.”

Jesus said, Thank you.”

The next day, the devil again knocked at his door, and again the rich man shut it. He started thinking.

“I gave Jesus five rooms and still the devil is knocking at my door. I made myself equal to God. I must give him more.

So he went to Jesus and said, “I am a sinner, and I am greedy. I gave you only one room, then two rooms, then five rooms. I will give you nine rooms and have just one for me.”

Jesus said, “Thank you.”

The next day there was a knock on the door, and Jesus went to open it.

When the devil saw Jesus, he said, “Sorry. I did not know you were here.”

The devil ran away and he did not go to that house again.

***

Then my father said, “You have to give all things to Jesus. You have to give everything to Jesus. If you give your whole life to Jesus, nobody can knock at you, no one can disturb you.”

I gave my whole life to Jesus and nothing is knocking at me. I am serving Jesus.

Fr. Worku, who recently visited Madonna House for a month, told us this story. Wondering if it was an Ethiopian folk tale or parable or if his father had written it, I asked him the source. He said he didn’t know. He only knew that his father had heard it from his aunt.

Fr. Worku learned about Madonna House ten years ago when, as a seminarian, he read a copy of Restoration in their library.

Drawn by the words “poverty,” and “sell all you possess” from our Little Mandate, he wrote to Fr. David May and read a few of the Madonna House books from the seminary library. He and Fr. David have been corresponding every since.

“Fr. David is my father, my mentor,” said Fr. Worku.

the editor