OPENING ACTIVITY: ‘Sour’ Agreements
Ask students to describe a contract, covenant, or agreement they entered into that went “sour”—that is, it went badly. Answers could include vague terms, the inability of one party to meet the terms of the contract, or the decision of one party not live up to their part of the agreement.
This week’s story describes an agreement a group of homeowners thought they had with their county and how they responded when they felt the county had not fulfilled its part of the agreement.
OPENING STORY: [Read the story aloud or make copies and pass them around.]
PROPERTY OWNERS SUE COUNTY TO COMPEL IT TO ACT
The homeowners of a residential area in Boulder County, Colorado, thought they had an agreement with the county to finance the purchase of open park space near their homes. But the county’s board of commissioners and the homeowners disagree on exactly how much funding the county was obligated to provide. This disagreement has resulted in a handful of homeowners filing a lawsuit in Boulder County District Court to force the commissioners and the Boulder County House Authority (BCHA) to comply with the homeowners’ understanding of the agreement.
In 1993, the residents of Gunbarrel, Colorado, a residential area northeast of Boulder, approved a self-imposed property tax that was to be dedicated for open space purchases and road improvements. The entity formed to manage this was called the Gunbarrel Public Improvement District (GPID). By Colorado law, its managing directors were the Boulder County Board of Commissioners.
The homeowners affected by the GPID are not contesting that the promised road improvements were not completed as agreed. What they are disputing is how much the County was obligated to contribute to help buy open space. The residents taxed themselves $1.9 million to purchase open space. It was their understanding of the GPID that the county would match this by chipping in an additional $1.9 million, so the total spent for open space purchases would therefore be $3.8 million. The homeowners claim that the County only provided $1.3 million in funding for open space purchases; therefore, it is obligated to set aside another $600,000 for this purpose.
At the heart of the dispute is the meaning of the words “match up to” in the agreement the residents had with the county. David Rechberger, one of the residents filing the lawsuit, said, “As a sweetener for the deal, county commissioners committed to match up to $1.9 million. When a governmental body says ‘match up to,’ that is a commitment to provide those funds. To date the GPID has raised and spent $2.3 million—far in excess of the $1.9 million [match]—but the county has only paid $1.3 million. So they’re roughly $600,000 short of the total to the taxpayers.” The county did spend approximately $600,000 to purchase additional property in the area. But instead of setting this property aside for open space, the county turned the property over to the BCHA for an affordable housing project. One way Rechberger says the county could meet its obligation would be to reverse this decision and set aside the property for open space.
A letter from Janis Whisman of the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Department disputes the homeowners’ understanding of the agreement. In a letter to them dated November 4, 2016, she said, “The Election Notice [for the GPID] states that the county agreed to match up to that amount [the $1.9 million]; it does not state that the county’s match should equal that amount.”
It looks like this dispute over the meaning of a few words in the contract the residents of Gunbarrel had with Boulder County will have to be resolved by the courts.
Ask your students to form small groups to discuss their answers to these questions.
- What things characterize a good or strong contract, covenant, or agreement?
- What characterizes a weak or bad one?
- Why are the covenants that God has made with us good and strong?
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Looking for Steps 2 & 3?
You can find Steps 2 and 3 in your teacher’s guide; your Step 4 appears below. To purchase a teacher's guide, please visit: Bible-in-Life or Echoes
GOD’S AGREEMENT WITH US
God’s covenant with us—His promise to redeem us—is based on His character and not ours. That’s good for us; none of us could be saved if what God promises to deliver to us was based on our ability to obey Him. God’s promise of forgiveness requires trusting in Jesus and making a commitment to follow Him.
It’s also good that God’s covenant with us is personal; it is not tied to our nationality, denomination, or any other group identity. He extends His hand of salvation to each of us individually, and when we accept and then firmly grasp it, God promises that our relationship with Him is transforming, both internally and externally.
Have students return to their Step 1 groups and to discuss their responses to the following:
- Is God’s personal covenant with you written on your heart? If so, how is it transforming your relationship with Him?
Close in prayer. Thank God for His desire to have a personal relationship with each of us. Acknowledge how wonderful this, then pray that you all will find ways to let your knowledge of His covenant with you be life-transforming.
THE BIBLE IN THE NEWS
The Bible’s place in American culture is examined in a new book
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