The Snake Who Gave Gold

retold by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Based on a ninth-century story

A man once took up residence in a fine house, bringing his wife, his only son, his servant, and belongings. He was warned that in this house there lived a deadly snake. If he should find the reptile, he should kill it immediately, and the man fully intended to do just that.

Searching the house carefully, he discovered the snake. As he raised his sword to kill the snake, he notices that the snake had dropped a piece of fine gold. “Surely this snake does not wish us harm,” the man reasoned, “or he would not have left this piece of gold.” So he left the snake alone and, day after day, it brought another gold piece.

After a while, the snake bit the man’s horse, and the animal died. His neighbors urged him to kill the snake before it did worse damage. He resolved to do so, but then he saw the pile of gold. At the rate the gold was accumulating, he could buy another horse and still have money left over.

Days past as before, until the servant died from the snake’s bite. Soon after his son died and his wife. By now the man was vowing vengeance. He cursed the house and bewailed that he ever came into this house. But every time the bright, pure gold soothed his hurt, and with what seemed to him plausible reasoning, he let the snake live.

Eventually, the man became a miser. He gloated over his wealth and his astute business abilities. But one day the snake bit him and he became very ill. The doctors had no cure for him, but he prayed to God and vowed to mend his ways and kill the snake if only he is spared. His prayers were heard and he recovered.

He soon tracked down the snake and just as he was about to kill it, instead of the usual gold, the snake left a magnificent pearl! As the man hesitated, the snake slithered off. The man decides to be more careful and not let the snake bite him anymore.

The pearls increased, but the day came when the man was bitten again. Again he prays and again he is spared. But again, he could not bring himself to kill the snake.

The third time he is bitten was his last. The man died. His house crumbles. If only he had killed the snake when its true identity was known, how differently this story would have ended.

For Further Study

Verses to Consider

  • Psalms 119:36
  • Proverbs 1:18-19
  • Proverbs 15:27
  • Proverbs 21:26
  • Ecclesiastes 4:6-8
  • Isaiah 56:11
  • Isaiah 57:17
  • Jeremiah 6:11-13
  • Habakkuk 2:9
  • Luke 12:15
  • Ephesians 5:5
  • I Timothy 6:10
  • Hebrews 13:5

Questions to Ponder

  1. What is the danger of greed or covetousness?
  2. Would the man have killed the snake if it had continued to give gold? Why did the man hesitate when the snake switched to pearls?
  3. Was the money worth what the man lost?
  4. Who killed the people in the story?
  5. What lies does greed tell a person?
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