The Shortest Story Ever Told

Allow me to present what, as far as I know, is the shortest story of all time.

Ready? Here it is:

A wise slave served a foolish emperor. The end.

Disappointed? What did you expect from a story seven words long?

At first glance, you might get the impression that the story is an absurd, pointless waste of time; but if you let your imagination run free, you can picture all sorts of details, embellishments, and ramifications: the emperor taking the slave for granted, the arrogant ruler blissfully lacking the self-awareness needed to recognize his own foolishness, the noble-hearted but oppressed slave whose capabilities far surpass her station, the slave struggling with the knowledge that she could solve so many problems if the emperor would just get out of the way.

Ultimately, I think we’ve all felt at one time or another like the wise slave with someone in a position of authority “above us” who makes foolish decisions. It’s very frustrating, and the obvious absurdity gives one the feeling that life just shouldn’t be this way.

Unfortunately, this is the way of the world, and there’s nothing we can do to eliminate artificial human hierarchies. (There are natural human hierarchies and there are artificial ones. The artificial ones semi-arbitrarily elevate certain people to a status above others for reasons that are not just.) We do have recourse, however, in that we can choose to be a part of the deeper kingdom. The amount of authority or status we have in the kingdom of this world is far less relevant than the standing we have in the heavenly kingdom.

These kingdoms are intertwined in a complex relationship that is often difficult to parse. This means that like it or not, we are forced to deal with the injustices and absurdities of the world’s system. Nevertheless, we can choose to act as emissaries of the heavenly kingdom. As such, we operate under the authority of the King. It is this authority that gives us the freedom to bring good into the earthly realm regardless of our station.

I think this is seen throughout the new testament writings with themes like the last being first and the greatest being servants. The call to live within the deeper kingdom is typically drowned out by the clamor of the world’s call to fight for more wealth, fame, prestige, and earthly authority. But it seems to me that only in answering the call and pursuing life in the deeper kingdom can we find true freedom and get glimpses of the better world that we’re all hoping for.

Image by Felix Mittermeier.

Featured image by Gerd Altman.

2 thoughts on “The Shortest Story Ever Told

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