Summary: Parables for Stewards, Pt. 7

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More than a decade ago, Robert Haft trumpeted this famous commercial to financial success: “If you paid full price, you didn’t buy it at Crown Books.” Robert was the son and heir apparent of the Dart Group founder, Herbert Haft, who made his fortune in real estate and discount drugstores.

Offering discounts of 40%, Crown became a hit in the Washington, D.C. area and gained a national following as it expanded to the Midwest and the West. But the elder Haft touched off a family feud when he rescinded plans to turn the reigns at the parent company, Dart, over to his son Robert and fired him. Robert the son wanted for a more open attitude to investors and a faster accession to full power. The father dismissed Robert from the chairman of Crown, ignored a 10-year employment contract and suspended his $500,000 in salary and $250,000 in bonuses a year. The feud went public, and father and son became bitter enemies. Mom protested and was also fired, and later divorced.

In the meanwhile, no one was minding the store when Borders, Barnes & Noble and Amazon muscled into Crown’s market share in the early 1990s. Crown plunged from its peak of 240 stores in 1994 to its bankruptcy and liquidation in 2001.

The child-parent relationship is anything but predictable, easy and controllable, especially when the child has his own mind, tongue and freedom. Jesus compares the unexpected repentance and obedience of tax collectors and prostitutes at the preaching of the gospel and his teaching to a child’s “no, but yes” answer to His offer of salvation and the unusual resistance and opposition of the Pharisees to a “yeah, right!” attitude to the same offer.

Why is God gracious and merciful to sinners as well as saints? What are God’s terms of offer to believers and unbelievers alike?

You Can Be Silly and Sensitive, But Don’t Be Stubborn

28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ’Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29 “’I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. (Matt 21:28-29)

When Doris and I studied this parable, the first thing she remarked was, “You are the Number 1 son!” That I am, so I treat him with kid’s gloves!

When she predicted that I would pursue another degree, I sneered, “Why do I need another degree when I have a Master of Theology degree? It is not going to make me serve any better!” Within a year, in 1997, I headed off for a Doctor of ministry degree. When I left Southern California then for Chicago’s Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, I vouched that I would not be back. I would rather serve in the Midwest, the East, anywhere but the West. Six months later I returned to minister in Riverside, an hour east of Los Angeles. When she said I could open an e-mail account to write to her when I was away, again I resisted, but I did not want to offend or hurt her. In my heart, I protested, “Why in the world do people need to e-mail when they can talk by phone? It seems impersonal and insincere to me.”

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