There was a rich merchant who had four wives. He loved the fourth wife the most, adorning her with rich robes and treating her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.
The merchant also loved the third wife very much. He was very proud of her and always wanted to show her off to his friends. However, the merchant lived in great fear that she might run away with some other men.
He, too, loved his second wife. She is a very considerate person, always patient and, in fact, is the merchant’s confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his second wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.
Now, the merchant’s first wife is a very loyal partner and has made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household. However, the merchant did not love the first wife and although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her.
One day, the merchant fell ill.
Before long, he knew that he was going to die soon. He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, “Now I have four wives with me. But when I die, I’ll be alone. How lonely I’ll be.”
Thus, he asked the fourth wife, “I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?”
“No way!” replied the fourth wife and she walked away without another word. The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant’s heart.
The sad merchant then asked the third wife, “I have loved you so much for all my life. Now that I’m dying, will you follow me and keep me company?”
“No!” replied the third wife.”Life is so good over here! I’m going to remarry when you die!”
The merchant’s heart sank and turned cold.
He then asked the second wife, “I always turned to you for help and you’ve always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?”
“I’m sorry, I can’t help you out this time!” replied the second wife. “At the very most, I can only send you to your grave.”
The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated.
Then a voice called out: “I’ll leave with you. I’ll follow you no matter where you go.”
The merchant looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition. Greatly grieved, the merchant said, “I should have taken much better care of you while I could have!”
Meaning behind the parable of the four wives
Like the rich merchant, we all have four wives. Here’s what that means.
The fourth wife represents our body. We spend lots of time tending to our body, washing it, dressing it, nourishing it with food. But no matter how well we care for it, our body will eventually fail us and be left behind upon death. God designed our earthly bodies to be temporary.
“For it is said, all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of the grass. The grass becomes dry and the flower dead.” 1 Peter 1:24
The third wife is our “stuff” — possessions, wealth, status. Without a true relationship with Christ, many people get caught up chasing material things. Life becomes about impressing other people. Yet, these things can vanish at any moment, and certainly don’t do us any good when our lives come to an end.
“Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; But make a store for yourselves in heaven, where it will not be turned to dust and where thieves do not come in to take it away.” Matthew 6:19-20
The second wife is our earthly relationships — friends, family, spouses. No matter how deep and how strong our relationships grow here on earth, they can only stand by us up to the grave. It’s our relationship with the Almighty that secures any hope after death.
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40
The first wife in this modern day parable represents our soul. It’s the only thing we can take with us after death. To keep our soul healthy, we must be in a relationship with our Lord and Savior, Christ. And yet, too often our spiritual life gets neglected as we pursue other things — money, love, careers. Just like the rich merchant in the parable, our priorities get flipped.
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30
Thankfully, it’s never too late to turn to God! I pray this modern day parable blesses you, and that you will share it to bless someone else!
I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” John 15:5