The story is told of a king’s chief servant who owed the king millions of dollars (in what that country used for currency). The servant wasn't making his payments. The king, reviewing the account, decides to foreclose on his servant, throwing him in debtors’ prison, taking his wages, his home, his possessions and throwing his children out in the street. The chief servant was called before the king and given the bad news. Upon hearing it, the chief servant fell to his knees and said “Lord, have patience with me and you will be repaid.” The king felt sorry for the servant and forgave the debt.
Walking out of the throne room, the chief servant spotted an underling who owed him $1000. The chief servant immediately grabbed his fellow servant, shook him like a rat and told him to pay up or he would take his house, turn his children out on the street and garnish his wages. The man begged for mercy, saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.”
The man’s plea fell on deaf ears. The chief steward foreclosed on the man, took his wages, his home, and his possessions and threw the man’s children out on the street.
The king’s other servants were appalled by this treatment and went to the king and told him what happened.
The king called his chief servant in and said, “I gave you mercy. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant?” Angry, angry, angry, the king threw the wicked chief servant into jail until he could pay his debt to the king.
Fast forward to 2009, big banks facing the collapse of the mortgage market, seeing their stocks tank and Wall Street plunging into a fiery pit of doom, go to the federal government and beg for mercy. “Have patience with us and you will be repaid.” The government gives them money to stay afloat. In return, they are asked to pay the money back and to start lending again. “Sure, sure, sure,” the banks say. “Just save us and we’ll do just that.”
Some pay the money back very quickly (making one wonder what all the fuss was about). All watch their stock climb up, up, up that big rock candy mountain called The Market.
Some of the banks’ customers lose their jobs in the bad economy. They cannot pay their mortgages. They go to the banks and say, “Have mercy on us and we will pay you back” But their pleas fall on deaf ears. Mortgages are foreclosed on. Families are turned out to the street.
Some of the banks’ customers’ credit cards go into default because they are using them to buy milk and bread and medicine. “Have mercy on us and we will repay you when we get back to work.” They tell the banks. “Sorry. You have bad credit. We don’t help people with bad credit,” say the banks.
Some of the banks’ small business customers go to the banks and say, “Help us expand our businesses and we will hire workers and increase our profits and jump start the economy.” The banks look at them incredulously. “Are you kidding? Risk losing some of the money the government lent us? No way.”
The executive branch of government, hearing of the banks’ failing to extend credit, asks them politely to begin lending again. The plea falls on deaf ears.
When that doesn’t work, the legislative branch, hearing from their constituents that they are angry, angry, angry, summon the chiefs of the big banks to Congress to rail at them. The chief bankers tell Congress. “These things are cyclical. We must make a profit for our shareholders. There is nothing we can do.”
The story of the unforgiving servant is in the New Testament Book of Matthew, Chapter 18, verses 23-25. Unforgiving servants are right here. Right now. In the good ole U. S. of A.