By St. Nikolai Velimirovich
In ignorance, many people labor more to avoid suffering in old age and terminal illness than to avoid the torments of hell in the life after old age and death.
Such was the case of an unmarried and avaricious man who, from year to year, and with ever greater passion, amassed for himself unnecessary wealth. When asked why he strove so much to pile up excess wealth he replied:
“I am gathering it for my old age. This wealth will heal and feed me in old age and sickness.”
And indeed, his foreboding came true. In old age, a grave and long-lasting illness befell him. He distributed his accumulated wealth to physicians so they would heal him, and to servants so they would care for him and feed him. His wealth was soon spent, and the illness continued. The physicians and servants abandoned him, and he fell into despair. His neighbors brought him bread until his death, and he was buried at the expense of the community. He had used his wealth for that which he had intended it.
God had even done for him according to the man’s will. God had sent him the illness that he had, in a sense, desired, and for which he had prepared great wealth. Nevertheless, all his wealth was unable to alleviate his sufferings in this world – so with what would he be able to alleviate his sufferings in the other world? Nothing, if he took with him neither faith, nor hope, nor charitable deeds, nor prayers, nor repentance!
Someone saw a departed man in the great glory of Paradise, and asked him how he had become worthy of that glory. The man replied:
“In my earthly life I was the hireling of an evil-doer who never paid me. But I endured all and served him to the end, with hope in God.”
Then the onlooker saw another man in even greater glory, and when he asked him, that one replied:
“I was a leper, and to the very end I offered gratitude to God for that.”
But no one saw in the glory of Paradise the man who had amassed money for illness in old age.