The Real Parable of the Talents

By: Allen Gunter, The Budget Guy


I’m sure you’re familiar with the Parable of the Talents. You know, the one where the master entrusts three of his servants with some talents and then leaves town for a while. But did you know that in the ancient texts there is a fourth servant?  


Well, it seems the fourth servant was most anxious to honor his master and do something good with the talents he had been given. But while he was thinking about what to do, he began noticing that some of the other servants had things that he didn’t…nicer cloaks, larger rooms, better food. He couldn’t understand why they had these things and he didn’t, and it made him feel a little inadequate and a little jealous. After all, didn’t he work just as hard…perhaps even harder…than they did? Didn’t his family deserve to have good things, too?  


Then one day the servant saw a beautiful cloak in a merchant’s shop. 


“If I had such a cloak, the other servants would respect me more and I would be much happier.”



Unfortunately, the servant did not have enough talents to buy the cloak.   But the merchant knew the servant’s master to be very wealthy, and he saw this as an opportunity to gain favor with the master. So he offered to let the servant have the cloak in return for just a few talents and the promise to pay the rest later.   The servant’s heart quickened.   


“This will only take a small part of what my master entrusted to me. I can still do something good for him with the rest and I’ll surely be able to replace the talents I’ve just used by the time my master returns.”  


So off the servant went in his fine new cloak. He hadn’t gone far when he met a man selling beautiful Persian rugs.   


“Such a rug would be much more comfortable to sleep on than the straw mats my family has now. Besides, if I were well rested, I’m sure I could do so much more to please my master.”


But again the servant did not have the needed talents. Thinking the servant to be a man of means because of the fine cloak he was wearing, the merchant offered to sell the rug to him for a small payment, with the rest to be paid later.  


This delighted the servant, who soon found that he could acquire most anything he desired this way. And so he did until he had many fine things for himself and his family.   


But as he acquired more, the servant realized that his heart had become burdened with all of the things he had bought. For now the servant worried about how to protect all of his fine new possessions from thieves and moths and rust. He resented the time he had to spend taking care of them, finding places to keep them.   


The servant began to realize that the happiness and contentment he had when he bought something new was temporary and unfulfilling. He seldom thought about his master anymore. He knew that one day his master would return and he would have to give an accounting, but that time seemed too distant. Besides, he had to deal with the accountings the merchants presented to him.  


And that had become the servant’s greatest burden. The merchants, of course, wanted to continue to be paid for what they had sold the servant. The servant truly wanted to pay them, but the small amounts the merchants kept asking for added up to large amounts that the servant found difficult to pay. He worried about how he would pay them, and it caused great strife and tension in his household.  


Okay, Budget Guy, stop right there. This isn’t from any “ancient text”…you’re making this all up! This is just your feeble attempt at being cute!  


Feeble, perhaps, but not intended to be cute! You see, I believe Jesus’ parables are all incomplete. He laid the groundwork for us in each one and then left the final “chapter” for us to write based on how we apply that parable to our own lives.  


Isn’t the Parable of the Talents really a lesson for us in how God wants us to manage all that He has entrusted to us? I believe God means for us to find joy in life, and a certain amount of joy can be found in material things. However, it’s not okay when the “wanting” and the “having” become the standard by which we measure ourselves and our happiness.  


Like Luke 16:11 ,“If, therefore, you have not been faithful in the use of worldly wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?” , the Parable of the Talents reminds us that we are merely stewards of what we have. How we handle that stewardship is a measure of our faith.