There was a Saivite saint called Ilayankudimara Nayanar, who served Lord Siva's devotees untiringly. He provided food for every devotee who visited his house. His wealth increased, so that it seemed as if he was as wealthy as Kubera, the Lord of wealth. Lord Siva wanted to show the world Nayanar's devotion. He did not want people to think that Nayanar was generous because he was wealthy. The Lord wanted to show the world that even in adversity, Nayanar would be just as devoted. So he caused Nayanar to lose his wealth.
Wealth is impermanent. Tiruvalluvar says that while we earn, save and accumulate wealth over the years, the wealth accumulated with so much effort is easily lost. He says when a drama is staged, all people do not come in at the same time. Some come long before the commencement of the play. Some come a few minutes before the play begins. Others arrive just in the nick of time. But when the play ends, they all file out of the theatre at the same time. Wealth behaves similarly. It is accumulated slowly over a period of time, but when it is lost, it is lost in a short time and suddenly. Such is the nature of wealth. Ilayankudimara Nayanar, however, attached no importance to wealth, said Sarala Rajagopalan.
To him wealth was merely an instrument to serve good food to the men of God. When he became impoverished, he was reduced to living in a hut. He was so hungry that he often wondered if sleep would rid him of the pangs of hunger. One night when it was raining heavily, Lord Siva came to his hut, in the guise of a Siva bhakta, and asked for food. Anyone else in Nayanar's position would have resented the visit of even a relative at such a time. But Nayanar welcomed the Lord into his hut and willingly said he would provide food to the Lord. He conferred with his wife as to what he should do. His wife had a great deal of willpower like her husband, and she too would not turn away a devotee of the Lord. Such was their bhakti that they improvised with what they had and served a hearty meal to the Lord. The Lord thus made known to the world the greatness of Ilayankudimara Nayanar.