Trump Real Estate Venture Goes Bad: A Parable

Donald and Eric Trump
Photo via Zimbio

Matthew 21:33-46

Or how ’bout this one:

Donald Trump built a lovely high-end condominium in Centerville, complete with big wall all around, a swimming pool and tennis courts, and a fancy gate with a guard booth at the entrance. He leased it out to tenants and went back to New York.

When it came time to collect the rent, he sent a few of his agents around to collect. But the tenants beat the hell out of one of them, practically killed the second, and threw rocks at the third as he ran away. So the Donald sent more agents, but the tenants treated them the same way. Finally he sent his son, Eric, out to the condo, saying, “They’d better listen to him.”

But when the tenants heard Eric was coming, they got together and hatched a plan: “This is the heir to the Trump dynasty! If we kill him, we’ll get the whole estate when the Donald kicks off!” So they grabbed him, dragged him into a back alley and killed him.

Now what do you think the Donald is going to do?

“He’ll have those bastards tried for murder and executed, and he’ll get some new, better tenants into the condo,” they said.

Jesus said, “That’s right. The riffraff that got turned down for a lone have now become the bank’s premiere customers. God, that’s so awesome! And I’ll tell you another thing, too. All the privileges you have because you claim to be so close to God – all that is about to change, and others will use your privilege to do what’s right. You’re headed for a fall, and then, when you think it can’t get any worse, it’ll get worse.”

When the senators and the businessmen heard these stories, they realized that he was talking about them. But as much as they wanted to arrest him, they were too afraid of the crowds who regarded him (instead of them) as their leader.

Already, what Jesus is talking about in the story is happening, right there under their noses. They can’t arrest him (which would usually be their privilege) because in that moment they have been removed from power.

Power and privilege are in the hands of the holder. And when it came right down to it, the people who were running the temple were all in somebody’s pocket. They never did have their own status. They never stood for anything on their own, other than maintaining the appearance of ownership.

Power and privilege are never for sitting on. They are for using to make good things happen. And if they are misused, there is inevitably a reckoning. What was true in Jesus’ day is no less true today.

It does no good for churches to wring their hands about how nobody comes any more and everybody prefers to go to their kids’ sports games on Sunday, or to lament that many hospitals no longer reserve parking places for clergy. The only salvation is to do the work that is required to pay the rent. The half-life on privilege is getting shorter each day.

The same is true for government, for business, and for your life and mine. Whatever resources we have, whatever comforts, whatever wealth or power or status or privilege – it’s not for us. It’s for doing something outstanding with. While we have it. Use it or lose it.