The Empty Sack

One day a trusted servant of the king called to the king’s three sons. “Come home! Now! The king commands you to come to the palace. Dress in your finest. His call is urgent.”

When the brothers arrived, the entire court was at attention. The ladies were dressed in their royal gowns, the lords in bright scarlet, purples and blues. Even though the brothers had worn their favourite princely tunics, they seemed inadequate to the splendour of the royal court.

“Come forward,” called the king. They obeyed, bowing low before him. The thick rugs of Persia felt softly inviting under their knees. But their stomachs were tight with expectation. Never before had their father, the king, called them to court like this occasion. It was clear that something urgent was happening.

“Dear sons of mine, Ahmed, Rahim and Salaam, sit here in the three princely chairs I have prepared for you. I want to look into your eyes as I speak. Today is a turning point in the kingdom. Today I begin the search for a new king. I am healthy but old and tired. The kingdom needs a younger king. One of you will sit on this throne and lead the people. But I do not know which one. So I have prepared a test – a test that will help me choose the next king for the kingdom.”

Their hearts pounded so hard that it sounded like the brass gong in the palace tower. All three brothers said to themselves, “A test? How could I study for it? What would it be? How would I do? When would it begin?”

“Bring in the sacks,” the king commanded. The servant brought three large sacks to the throne.

“Come, sons. Each of you today receives a sack, nothing fine, just a new empty sack. Completely empty. Ready to be filled. The test I have prepared is a simple but difficult one. Take the sacks.”

Then their father stood and commanded them. “Go wherever you desire in our country and the world around us. Find whatever you can. Fill your sack. Then three years from today, return to the kingdom. I will be waiting. I will select the new king by what is in your sacks. Now go! My love goes with you.”


“Sons, welcome home!” he exclaimed. “Later I must hear of all your travels and listen to the tales of our world. But I must first choose a king. Please show me your sacks. Ahmed, you are the oldest. Bring me your sack.”

Ahmed could hardly drag his sack down the scarlet carpet. He lifted the sack and emptied it before the throne. Gold, silver, rubies, diamonds, and treasures beyond description spilled from the sack. A -gasp of surprise was quickly followed by thunderous applause from all in the castle court.

Ahmed briefly told of gathering an army. He travelled to distant lands, captured cities, and demanded money from the rulers. There were many more bags awaiting the king outside. Ahmed smiled, laid his sword on the treasure, and returned to his golden chair.

Rahim was next – tall and handsome, clothed now in the robe of a successful merchant. His sack contained wonders from all over the world.

Rahim had taken a few coins, purchased goods, quickly sold those, bought more, and sold those for a higher price. He kept trading for more until now he owned ships, houses, factories, and land. His story and the contents of his sack amazed the royal court. None had seen wonders gathered so quickly as those he laid before his father’s throne. The court was full of praise for his success.

Salaam fingered his empty sack and wished this moment of humiliation would never come. But the king called his name.

Salaam stepped slowly forward. He looked down at the carpet beneath his feet. He shared how he and his horse travelled from the valleys to the mountains. From cold sunrises to hot sunsets he travelled. For three long years he looked for just the right wonder with which to fill his sack. But he could not decide.

In his travellings he came to a tiny village high in the mountains. All was silent there. It seemed that all the citizens were either asleep or ill. Quickly he found that their illness was from hunger. Their food was gone, the fields were empty, and they were dying.

He thought of his sack. He could fill it later for his father. But right now the village needed what it could carry. He rode to a city at the foot of the mountain, filled the sack with all the food it would hold, and rode back to the people. He made many trips, having convinced the city people to sacrifice and help save the village people. He stayed many weeks until life had returned to the village.

At another village he found children who showed the signs of scurvy. The only way to return their health and strength demanded fresh fruit. He searched many days until he found oranges and tangerines – exactly what the children needed. Again he convinced people of the importance of serving others. He filled his sack and rode across the thirsty sands to the children. Those who had the strength were waiting for him. A few weeks• later they were playing happily.

For three years he travelled from village to village, from need to need. His sack carried medicines, fruit, nuts, dried fish and clothing. Everywhere he found people with hurts and hopes who needed help. He also found people willing to be guided into helping others. He gave away everything he had except for his sack and horse.

His sack? Well, it suffered from use. At the end of three years he rode the horse back to the kingdom. It did not concern him that he would not be king.

But it did concern him that his father would be disappointed. His sack was coming home empty. His sack could hold nothing. It was a few coarse threads woven over large holes. It was a torn, worn-out disaster. Salaam apologized, saying “My sack is now useless. And father, it is empty!”

The room filled with a thick silence. Salaam wished he could crawl beneath the carpet. Instead he turned and walked slowly back to his chair.


The king stood up, his face full of energy. “Today I have found a king! Ahmed, Rahim, Salaam, come forward.”

As they knelt before him, he continued. “Ahmed, you have done well. You will be a great general of an army, but not a great king. If I were to make you king, the people would always be at war so that gold and power would always flow to your throne. The people would follow you and your commands from fear rather than from reasons which bring honour.

Rahim, you also have done well. You have built a fortune from little more than your own ability to see value, engaged in trade, and manage accounts. You are a great merchant. But you would not be a great king. You would always be looking for ways to raise taxes, build new palaces, and raise the price of produce. People would follow you for selfish reasons. The people would serve you as their banker and tax collector rather than trust you their as king.”

Salaam, you have loved the citizens of our kingdom. You have found their hurts and healed them. You have made others aware of needs and they followed your example to help. You have filled your sack with treasure and emptied it to meet their needs. Already news of your love and service are spreading across the kingdom. Yes, your sack is empty, but the few threads that remain tell the story of a king who leads by showing love and service. A king people will love to trust and follow.”

Suddenly a storm of applause and shouts of honour rose from the ladies and lords of the castle court.

The crown Salaam wears today is to celebrate his dedication to his subjects. He loves his people and serves them with devotion. He empties his sack of hope and love into their hearts every moment. And the sack? It hangs beside the throne, a reminder that his qualification for kingship is an empty sack.

Now my dear reader, what does this story tell you about good leadership – both political as well as spiritual? Which of the three princes would God most likely choose as a prophet to lead his people? Why? Which one would you like to follow? How is Salaam similar to Jesus the Messiah?

To help you understand more about the Messiah and the Holy Bible, we are ready to send you study booklets – a Bible correspondence course.