The Bag of Walnuts

I told this story yesterday as part of a teaching on justice. It is adapted from a snippet of a folktale I read years ago. There’s a lot going on in this short tale. I’d love to hear what you hear in this story.


Once upon a time three kids found a bag of walnuts and took it to the wisest man in their village.

They asked him to divide the nuts among them as God would.

So the sage gave the first kid one walnut.

To the second he gave five walnuts.

Then he gave the rest, well over fifty walnuts, to the third.

The first two protested, “That’s not fair!”

The sage said, “You didn’t ask me to be fair. You asked me to distribute them as God would.”

The third kid, the one who was holding the bag of walnuts, asked the sage, “Why did you give me so much more than the others?”

“Wrong question,” said the sage.

Burdened by the responsibility he was holding in his hands, the third kid said, “I agree with the the others. This isn’t fair.”

The sage said, “Why are you complaining to me about what is unfair, when you’re the one with all the walnuts?”

The sage turned and walked away.

The third kid called after him, “What am I going to do with all these walnuts?”

The sage smiled and said over his shoulder, “Now that is the right question.”


  1. Wow, there’s so much here. We want what God wants, until it doesn’t appear to go our way. When given great blessings, we ask the wrong questions. When we finally do ask the right question, it doesn’t have an answer. Blessings don’t always come in the way we’d like them to.

  2. Hey, Wade – You’ve had two really thought provoking posts in a row here and I’m somehow way behind on properly engaging in conversation with you in comments and/or those around me. But, while I have a few minutes . . . you ask what we hear in this story.

    Since it’s a “folktale” that appears to be written for children, I’ve been trying to think how I thought as a young girl (which is quite difficult, any more! ha!) raised in a Christian home. I also have been thinking of my three young granddaughters, 11, 8 & 6, who live nearby – also being raised in a Christian home.

    But, I also cannot escape the fact that I’m thinking about these things, and somewhat observing them outside of my own current thinking which has encompassed many years of living as a Christian. Still – I hear the message that in this life we are not at all “equal” or “the same” as many think of it these days, especially in this society. We are each given different portions and talents in life and must deal with what we have been given in living our lives out before God, as Jesus Christ would have us live.

    For the child receiving the abundance, I immediately think that the lesson is to share. But, I’m thinking that the other two children might be compelled to share with others, as well, even if in different ways. In other words, not necessarily material ways only.

    What are YOU thinking, Wade?

    You know, there’s been a quote going around FB among my friends that says “Others are praying right now for what you already have,” or something to that effect. Interesting. I think each of us needs to very humbly reflect upon what that truly means. Even one walnut, while not abundant, is more that starving.

    I’m thinking of much more to add to my thoughts here (as always!) – examples from my granddaughters – but I need to go heat up our leftovers on this rather cold south Mississippi evening.

    God bless & I’ll look for this on FB (haven’t been on in three days!?! – what??) to pass on to my beloved son who lives here . . . with the three little girls!


    • Thanks Dee! Love your insights. It’s funny, what I think about this story changes every day and I’m the one who wrote/adapted it!

  3. Mason Puckett says:

    As soon as the second kid got his walnuts, I immediately recognized the theme of justice.

    At first, I felt the third kid’s reaction wasn’t real, as in that’s not how we’re used to seeing people react when they’re given much. No one buys a sports car and says “well, this doesn’t seem fair”.

    But after more reflection, that’s not what’s going on here. He’s face to face with two people who received less as a result of what he was given. How would our perspective change if we spent more time with people of a different social class/race/religion/demographic/etc.?

    After all, isn’t that the story of how the company TOMS was created?

    And building on Terry’s point about asking the right questions, yes, it seems they have fewer answers than the wrong questions. I once heard a minister, whom I look up to, say that maybe God blesses us in different ways to see how creative we can be in using those blessings. So perhaps the first and second kids should have asked the same right question.

  4. I see this in two ways:
    1) make do with what you have been given. When you sit down to play cards, you play the hand you are dealt.
    2) some old jewish men taught me that “of whom much is given, much is expected”. Perhaps some won’t know how to handle so much. There is responsibility in having possessions, education, ability, etc.

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