Reading 00

In the Parable of the Talents, a master rewards and praises two of his servants who doubled his talents in his absence and reprimands the servant who preserved the single talent he was given rather than losing it or using it to make more for his master. When considering this parable in the context of this course, the talents in this parable are like the computing skills we have. Their fullest potential is realized when the servants trade them and double the amount, and talents are wasted when they are buried. Similarly, our computing skills and talents grow and come to fruition when we use them to help others. By trading the talents they were given, the two servants were able to double what they had. This concept is echoed by Jeff Atwood when he writes that “by helping others become better programmers, you too would become a better programmer.”

Trading talents and using computers with the intention of improving people’s lives and helping people become the best version of themselves doesn’t come without risks. The servant who buried the talent he was given did so out of fear, probably because he couldn’t guarantee that he would walk away with at least a single talent if he had tried to trade it. When developing software, there is always a chance that a mistake will be made that has negative consequences. However, we cannot let this deter us from trying to use our skills to help people. There are measures we can take to try to minimize the chances of causing harm. Being informed and educated about how to do something before attempting to do it is a good start, especially if it has grave consequences.

Another important idea that is presented in this parable is integrity. Integrity is consistent with the discussion of ethics, and it exhibits a mastery of ethical behavior because a person with integrity acts ethically at all times. This message comes across when the master says “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much” (Matthew 25:23). Those who can be trusted to do the right thing in small matters can also be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to more important things (at least when compared to those who don’t do the right thing for less important matters). The master goes on to say that “to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away,” implying that as people start to see that they can trust you to properly handle certain things, you will be given more responsibility (Matthew 25:29). If you can’t use your gifts appropriately and keep up with your responsibilities, you lose other people’s trust, and your responsibilities (which are opportunities to use your gifts and contribute to something greater than yourself) will be taken away. This principle applies to most things in life, not just computer science and engineering skills.

It is important to note that the servant who was scolded did not intentionally do anything wrong. He tried his best with what he was given, and still managed to disappoint his master. Fear inhibited him from doing what he knew his master expected of him, and even though he thought he had taken the best course of action for the circumstances, he was still scolded and sentenced to “the outer darkness” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” which sounds like a very unpleasant place. I think the lesson to be learned here is that we should not let fear prevent us from doing what we know is right, regardless of how others might respond to our choices. At the end of the day, if we have seriously thought through our decisions and how they would impact others, made the decision that we think would be best, and are able to explain/support the decision that was made, we should have little to fear about how others will react.