Author: Ravi Zacharias Illustrator: Laure Fournier ● Published: 2012 ● Publisher: Zonderkidz ● ISBN: 978-0-310-71636-5 ● Pages: 32 ● Illustrations: full page colorful illustrations ● Age: 4 and up ● Source: Review copy from publisher
Summary: The Merchant and the Thief: A Folktale from India
Mohan and Raj may live in the same village, but their lives are very different. While Raj lives a comfortable life enjoying great wealth and prestige, Mohan struggles to provide food for his family and covets the wealth of others. Slowly, he becomes a petty thief, but even stealing doesn’t provide the wealth he desires. When he learns that Raj is leaving on his yearly journey and will take his treasure for safekeeping, Mohan plots to follow as a fellow traveler and steal Raj’s treasure
Each night when the travelers stop for the night, Mohan frantically searches the room when Raj leaves to prepare for bed. But every night, he uncovers nothing. Finally, on the last day of the journey Raj reveals to Mohan that he knew that Mohan desired his treasure for the entire trip. When Mohan asks how Raj managed to hide the treasure, Raj reveals that the treasure was under Mohan’s pillow the entire time. He then explains the greatest treasure of all is often overlooked just like the treasure under the pillow – God’s love expressed through Jesus Christ.
“When we have our eyes on other people’s treasure, we cannot see how close we are to the greatest treasure there is,” Raj said. “Anyone can have this treasure, Mohan, even you.”
Raj tells Mohan about Christ, and Mohan returns home, a changed man. His new belief in Christ brings the happiness and contentment that money did not bring.
Comments: The Merchant and the Thief: A Folktale from India
Overall, we enjoyed reading The Merchant and the Thief. The illustrations were bright and colorful and the story engaging. My one criticism would be that the ending dragged by turning the tale into a conversion experience rather than just focusing on the moral emphasis of the permanent versus temporal treasure. Not to mention since Mohan’s children were going hungry, I couldn’t help but wonder why if Raj was such a great Christian man he didn’t do something to help Mohan physically as well as spiritually.
Concerns aside, the book is still a great book. Even with my assessment of the ending, we still enjoy 3/4s of the book, and I just stop reading or abbreviate if Ben looks disengaged at the end. I was impressed that unlike some Christian books, The Merchant and the Thief for the most part actually contained a story rather than a bunch of moralistic lessons thinly disguised as a story.
Activity Idea: The Merchant and the Thief: A Folktale from India
The Merchant and the Thief is an excellent book for emphasizing the difference between lasting treasures and temporal treasures. Just as the book describes, the permanent treasures often exist right under our noses, and we can lose sight of what is really important by always focusing on temporal things.
To emphasize the difference, I typed and printed out a list of treasures, some temporal (ex. money, clothes, toys) and some lasting (ex. God, family). Then, Ben and I cut the words from the list out. Using a piece of scrapbook paper, I had Ben glue the lasting treasures on one side of the sheet of paper and the temporal treasures on the other side.
Then, we burnt the sheet with the temporal treasures on it. My husband and son love fire, so I let the men take charge of the paper burning.
Since we are using fire, I want to be sure to mention that we did this outdoors under parental supervision. More importantly, we did it under my supervision. I’m not in the picture, but trust me, I was there making sure the men didn’t burn the neighborhood down.
Only the lasting treasures were left unburned. I saved this sheet and stuck it on the fridge as a reminder to all of us (me included) that we want to live for what lasts. I will save you the embarrassment of having to see a photo of our fridge though. Between the coloring sheets, random cheap phone book magnets, and ABC letters, I’m not sure we will ever see our project again.
This activity seemed to make quite an impression on Ben. He even chose to read his Jesus Storybook Bible before bed saying that he wanted to live for lasting treasure.
Of course, you could do the activity with or without the book, but I hope that you will take the time to read The Merchant and the Thief. I think you will enjoy it!
What do you think? I would love to hear . . .
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