Andrew, Scott and Jonas: A modern Day Parable (1)

Andrew, Scott, and Jonas all worked for Mr. Sanmiser.  Mr. Sanmiser was a cold-hearted miser.  He made his fortune by meticulously analyzing every element of every investment he ever made.  Everything to him was a statistic.  He was known on Wall Street for almost always investing in “sure things.”  He had made 100 million because he had what economists called a “long view.”  He had seen others invest heavily in microchips in the 1990s, but he also noticed that microchips only made money by pushing the component parts closer and closer together.  He realized long before anyone else that eventually these microchips would overheat, and he began research into this new field.  He made millions with his findings and eventually, last year, he had had a billion  dollars to his name.

But Mr. Sanmiser had to make a trip to London, and so he got his three most trusted aides to come into his office.

“I have to make a trip to London,” he said quietly.  “Andrew, you are to manage the software department this week while I am gone, Scott, you are to manage the web design department, and Jonas, you are to make sure our investments in the MRI equipment are sound.”

And with that he left.

Andrew went at work at once to sell the software.  Their newest prodcut had to compete with top sellers like Adobe and Microsoft.  He knew that their competitors were going to be putting out similar products, and so he put out a fake press release that said Bill Gates was having an affair and was having heart trouble.  By the time Gates had come out to clear the debacle, stocks at microsoft had gone down and Mr. Sanmiser’s software stock had cone up.

Scott also knew that in order to sell their web pages over others, they would have to supply the cheapest web pages possible.  He called up some contacts in India and gave the work to them so that their prices would be lower than American workers doing the same work.  Scott heard that the amount his Indian contacts were paying the web designers could hardly feed one family, but he went ahead nonetheless.

Jonas, however, was in a bind.  He knew that in order to make money on the MRI’s he would have to lie a few hospitals and not mention some of the defects that their producers had warned them about.  Because Jonas mentioned these things to the hospitals who wanted to buy the MRI equipment, the stock for the MRI equipment stayed the same as it had the day before.  Jonas had made no money at all.

When Mr. Sanmiser returned he quickly gave bonuses to Andrew and Scott.  They had made money for the company, but called Jonas into his office when he found out that the MRI sales had flattened.

“What the hell happened to my MRIs?” Mr. Sanmiser asked angrily.

“Sir, I know that you are a hard man.  I know that you will do anything to make your money, but I can’t hide the fact that the MRIs have some major problems.”

“You’re a salesmen, Jonas.  You are supposed to SELL products, not go on and on about the risks of a product.”

“I know, Sir, but will all due respect….”

“You want to talk to me about respect? You want to know if I am a hard man?  How about this for hard.  Get out of my office and clear you things.  You knew that I was a hard man?  Then should have played hard ball and put my money to good use.  You get out of my office and take your effects and walk right out that door.  Your jobs goes to Andrew.  At least he will sell my products!”

Mr. Sanmiser’s face did not change.  He felt no remorse.  He simply stared at Jonas until he walked out of the room and down the stairs to his office.  He cleared his things and he was gone.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


6 thoughts on “Andrew, Scott and Jonas: A modern Day Parable (1)

  1. I like what you’re doing. I think one of the things that the first century has in common with ours is the appeal of a good story and the way it can convey truth. Jesus knew this and used it masterfully. The appeal of movies and TV show how hungry our culture still is for good stories. Keep at it. I think “modern parables” could be a very effective way of communicating the Gospel.

  2. Clever re-telling of the story, but you have fallen into some economic fallacies:
    1. That the only way to do well is to cheat. In other words, you seem to believe that there is a limited amount of wealth in the world, and that for one person to have more another must necessarily have less. Not true. The world and the potential for it to produce wealth are constantly expanding and growing.
    2. You miss the wealth created by the “evil” boss. Sure, he may have been a miser, but by making the market more efficient all participants in that market are better off.
    3. Jesus never implied that the successful servants practiced any sort of deceit. You may be conflating this parable with the parable of the shrew servant. We should never conflate parables, or try to make them say anything other than Christ’s central message in the parable. For example, the parable of the prodigal son had one central message, directed at the Pharisees: You have been faithful, but you do not love me. All the millions of sermons trying to tell about “when God ran…” are misplaced.
    My criticism is harsh, I know, but please don’t stop writing. I enjoy much of what you have to say, and read as often as you post.
    Nathanael Snow

  3. Hi Nathanael,
    I am of the opinion that all parables are supposed to create dialogue. The fact that you disagree, in my mind, shows that I have written a parable worthy of dialogue. My hope was that people would realize that I had changed the story slightly and get angry and or uneasy about it.

    My hope is not to create a direct parallel to the biblical stories in a modern context, but to make people uneasy by the story.

    I would now like to respond to your points.

    @ #1: Actually this is not what the story says. All the story says is that two people cheated and got ahead and one person did not cheat and did not get ahead. This was not a parable designed to tell any sort of universal truth.

    @ #2: I am quite interested that you immediately jumped to the boss being “evil.” This was not my intention with the story. My intention was to show a boss that knew how to make money, but was also cold-hearted in the sense that he was a no non-sense type of guy. If people don’t perform, then they are “out” so to speak. I am not suggesting this is representative of God. Perhaps, I am asking, should this be the way that bosses run their businesses?

    @ #3: Yes. I agree that Jesus never explicitly stated that the successful servants did anything deceitful, but I also mentioned that this is not supposed to directly relate to the parable in the Bible (it is only similar to it). As far as parables having “one central message,” I would argue that Jesus told parables to confuse people rather than to make things clear. Most parables had multiple meanings.

    As far as your criticism’s being “harsh,” this is the only type of criticism worth reading.

  4. Well, you certainly provoked a response out of me! Well done!
    As for a “parable not designed to tell any sort of universal truth,”: wow. I don’t know how to do that, on purpose. I tell many self-contradictory stories on accident, though!
    I suppose I’m not post-modern enough, heh.

    I guess I read cold-hearted as evil. That’s the usual connotation, no?
    What do you make of my contention that making the best deals he can is what is best for society?

    I’m concerned about the consequences of reading parables as deliberately confusing stories. Maybe I’m just not comfortable with that type of reading. I’m starting to feel like a stuffy old man!

    I’m glad you welcome the criticism, so do I. I don’t know how we can improve our own thought any other way.

  5. I don’t like the term “postmodern” for many reasons. Mainly, the term is self-defeating and doesn’t help me explain anything. I don’t consider myself “postmodern.” I think that trying to show clear transitions between any sort of modern and post-modern is also self-defeating. The nice tidy lists that emergents often come up with to show the differences are usually too neat and often only say what the emergents thought in the first place. This is a dangerous way of doing any sort of study on culture.

    That said, when I say the story was not designed to tell “universal truth,” I mean to say that the story will be interpreted differently be different people. I made the story somewhat “gray” so that people could grow to like the main “boss” character if their economic philosophies lined up with his.

    Your contention that he is doing the best possible thing is quite warranted by many economists. According to these types of economic theorists, if everyone does what is best for himself, everyone does better. You might search the archives for what I have said previously on anti-federalism and Ayn Rand. Both of these posts will deal specifically with how I feel about capitalism.

    I, personally, am not a capitalist. I live in a capitalist society, but I don’t think capitalism is the best way to go. I have many reasons for this, but I don’t have enough time at the moment to write them all out here. I like to think I don’t adhere to any one system when I live, but I do lean towards certain brands of capitalism on certain days. I’m not certain about any of this really, but I will try to talk more about it later.

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