Jesus’ story of a monarch and his servant retold in a contemporary context

Monday, April 22, 2013

“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).

IDEA: Christians have a basis and a motive for offering unconditional forgiveness.

PURPOSE: To help listeners appreciate why we can offer unconditional forgiveness to others.

Tim Baker had the job of his dreams working for the Texas National Bank. He rose to the top very rapidly. After a series of promotions within two years he was appointed the chief of investment banking. The market was soaring, and every one of his investments turned out right. As a result he had an impressive house, two expensive BMWs, the cottage by the lake—all of which shouted “Success! Success!” He had the “smarts” to make an enormous fortune.

He had some friends who were starting a new business. Tim knew that they had the skill and experience to use the market to make their new business produce not just millions, but billions of dollars in a few years. Tim used his position at the bank to leverage a major loan for what he was confident was almost a “sure bet.” Then the crash took place. Almost overnight the market dropped over half its value. Tim’s investment plummeted from $93/share to little more than penny stock.

Tim was in trouble. It would have been a crushing loss if he had merely invested his own money, but worse, he had invested borrowed money—lots of it. It wasn’t long before the president of Texas National Bank was demanding that he repay the loan. Tim knew that was impossible. Even if he sold his home, his expensive automobiles, and the cottage by the lake, in this economy he couldn’t come close to paying back what he owed.

As Tim sat across the desk from the president, sweat trickled down his back. Although he was a smart negotiator who had talked his way through several tight deals, this time he was cornered. But he tried to bluff his way out of the conversation: “Mr. Morgan, please give me a year, and I’ll have this loan repaid with interest.” The president looked out across the city from his penthouse office, then slowly turned back and said, “Baker, don’t play me for a fool. You owe this bank millions, millions. I should have you thrown into prison. But the bank would gain nothing from that. I’ve decided to use the discretionary powers the Board of Directors has given me and write off what you owe us.”

Tim was stunned and delighted. He owed a staggering amount of money and the debt was forgiven. He didn’t have to pay back anything!

It was time for lunch and in the coffee shop he ran into Larry Gibson. Larry rented a small house that Tim owned as an investment. Larry and his wife were also hit by the bad economy and were behind in the rent. Tim wanted to know when the rent would be paid. Larry looked frightened and helpless. “Tim, my wife and I have been hit by this market downturn. She is trying to get a job but you know that firms simply aren’t hiring. Could you give me a couple of months to pay the rent, please?”

Tim snapped. “What do you take me for, Larry? Get that check to me by tonight or you’ll be out by the end of the month.” And sure enough, in a matter of days Larry and his wife and their two kids moved in with her parents.

Of course, the news got back to the president of the bank. He was furious when he called Tim in: “Baker, you are the scum of the earth. I went out on a limb to keep you out of bankruptcy and even jail. Then what did you do? You had Larry Gibson and his family thrown out of their house because they were a couple months behind in their rent. I’m going to treat you the way you have treated them. I’ve instructed the credit department to place a lien on everything you own. You’re fired. Now clean out your desk and be gone by this evening. ”

I. How do you feel about the characters in this story?

What do you think about President Morgan?

What about Tim Baker?

What do you personally think about him?

If he were telling the story, how might he have explained all that had happened to him and his family?

What do you think he might feel about Mr. Morgan?