In the late 1800’s Russell Conwell became famous for his lecture in which he encouraged listeners to find the “acres of diamonds” in their own backyards. Conwell was a Baptist minister, the first president of Temple University, and a captain during the Civil War. At the ten year reunion of his troops, he delivered the Acres of Diamonds speech. Thereafter, he was asked to deliver the speech over 6,000 times around the world.
The Acres of Diamonds Story
Acres of Diamonds is a fictional parable Conwell heard while traveling through present day Iraq in 1870, and is the story of a wealthy and contented Persian farmer named Ali Hafed. One day a travelling priest stopped by Ali Hafed’s farm and told him all about diamonds, what they looked like, what they were worth, and where they might be found. Ali Hafed soon became consumed with thinking about diamonds, discontented to the point that he sold all he had and left his family to search the world for diamonds.
In the end he found no diamonds. Penniless, exhausted, and broken Ali Hafed cast himself into the sea. Years later, the man who had purchased Ali Hafed’s farm found a sparkling stone in a stream cutting through his land. It was a diamond. This, according to the parable, was the discovery of the famous Golconda Mine that produced the crown jewels of England and Russia.
The point of the parable is that if Ali Hafed had stayed at home and looked for diamonds on his own farm, he would have found “acres of diamonds” instead of poverty, starvation, and death by suicide.
The moral of Acres of Diamonds is that if you want a better opportunity, the first place you should look is your current situation. Most of us know someone who has left their job due to problems they were encountering only to find similar problems in their new jobs. Or, moved to a new city because of a lack of opportunity when they could have saved themselves and their families the pain of moving if they had tried to improve and “mine” their current situation. We see the applications of this parable all around us. Three in particular are applicable to those who serve the local church.
- Ministers. There are always opportunities to improve your situation. If you are bored, unfulfilled, or stuck in your job look first at how you might improve and expand your current responsibilities. Speak with your supervisor or pastor to uncover additional responsibilities that you might assume. Find the best in what’s around you. Look at the familiar in new ways. Believe in the opportunities God has provided you where you are.
- Church Members. People leave churches for many reasons, frequently because the church lacks something they want or need. Challenge malcontent members to consider that maybe God has placed them in your church to identify and help address that shortcoming. Or, to be a part of solving the problem they are considering leaving over.
- Vision. God inspired vision must include the community where God has planted the church. Often the most glamorous vision, the one with the most curb appeal and that gets communicated and celebrated the most is that of faraway places. Yet, each church sits in the midst of its own Acres of Diamonds. More times than not, opportunity doesn’t just appear – it has been there around us all the time – we just have to have the eyes to see and the will to “prospect” our surroundings.
A parallel to the Acres of Diamonds parable can be found in the Prodigal Son parable. Specifically, where the son was discontent and left for greener pastures yet had the good sense to return home and beg for forgiveness. Like the Prodigal Son, for most of us our diamonds are usually not in some far away locale, but rather in our own back yard if we will only take the time to look.
Posted on January 9, 2018