One Room, 10 Years, and a Choice: What Would You Do?

The story of Crassus

Interesting story from 14th Century Belgium.

Once there were two brothers who were caught up in a dispute over lands after their mother died. One was a Duke named Raynald III who, as the story goes, was exceedingly obese. He was not just a little over weight. Apparently, he was enormous. His nickname was Crassus which means “FAT” in Latin. (Actually, it means solid, thick, dense, fat, gross,’ fleshy, stout to be precise.)

Over the course of time the dispute with his younger brother, Edward, became violent and the two went to war over the disputed lands. During the revolt, Crassus was taken prisoner and carried off to Nieuwkerk Castle.

Edward had a special room built in the castle for Crassus with normal-sized windows and doors and placed his obese brother in the room without locking or barring the doors or windows. The younger Edward boldly challenged his brother that he could leave at anytime and retain ownership of his lands and titles if he could just get out of the door or windows.

But, here’s the catch…

Edward made sure to deliver delicious foods to his brother everyday. Crassus could have left the room at anytime if he could have just resisted the foods and lost some weight. But, he could not resist the temptations and was held captive in the open room for 10 years.

His only reprieve came when his younger brother was mortally wounded in battle and died. However, Crassus could not be removed from the room easily. They had to break down the walls to get him out.

Once released, the Duke, Crassus, ruled his lands and retained his titles unopposed. As the old phrase goes, he finally had his cake and ate it too. However, he died within a year because his health was destroyed from indulging in the rich foods his brother tempted him with.

Now, if you are reading this story and are a teacher or pastor, you are most likely thinking of a wealth of illustrations this history connects with.

So many live in prisons without bars and locks. We are victims of our own making. Addiction is a big problem in this area which I know first hand, but the problem extends beyond that. 

Fear, bad habits, victimization, and all such afflictions chain us to weights of our own making. The locks are strong but not because of the quality of the iron they are fashioned with.

Actually their power comes from an unwillingness to challenge their hold on us. Crassus loved food even though he probably hated what the food was doing to him. He may have complained about the doors and windows that were wide open but cruelly fashioned just a little too small for him to shove his body through. I can imagine that each day he wrestled with a decision.

“Do I eat this food, or do I get my freedom?”

And, each day he chose the food because he loved it more than his freedom. Now, this is not a story of losing weight. It is a story of indulgence of things that imprison us.

Things that imprison our mindset, our bodies, our families’ lives, etc. All we have to do is claim the freedom that is available to us. We just need to let go of indulging what chains us.

This is the freedom that Christ offers. All we have to do is let go of our worldly loves and grasp the freedom Christ has for us. It’s that simple!

But, like the truths in the Bible, it really is not that simple. It is easy to understand but hard to execute.

Over the years we have built up loves of all kinds that knock our legs out from under us. We get used to them. Even though we hate what they do to us we can’t let them go. We are used to them. We even love them.

We are used to our anger. We want to hold onto that grudge. 

We love that addiction. 

We would rather tell a lie than tell the truth. 

We love our houses and cars and indulgent lives. 

Whatever it might be, we trade our freedom for imaginary chains. We have not amassed the courage to do what is necessary to leave our prison.

But, it’s right there. You can see the hills and valley right outside the door and window. You can feel the breeze and small the grass. All you have to do is get through the opening which is unlocked and un-barred.

Just walk out. The answer is easy but the execution is the hard part. You know what you need to do!

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