The parable of the tenants

In Matthew 21:33-46 (read passage here) we find the “Parable of the Tenants” or the “The Story of the Greedy Farmhands” depending on your translation.

Again in this parable we have an image of God as owner and ruler. But this time Jesus goes a little further with His imagery.

First, He shows us God as Creator, Builder. He planted a vineyard, built a wall, dug a trench, built a watchtower. This is a reminder that all we have and all we see is a result of God’s Creation. We had nothing to do with this world we live in coming into existence. It was all God. He doesn’t just rightfully own it, He built it. I don’t know about you, but when I build something, it means more than when I just purchase something. There is just this feeling of accomplishment and worth when you created that video, music, writing, art, graphic, furniture, fence, etc. You take better care of it. It is special.

God created this world and He cares for it greatly.  He gave us charge, but not ownership. Notice the title is “tenants” not “owners”. When we rent property, whether for vacation or residence, we have charge over that property. Within the limits of the agreement we can do what we want and we have dominion over that place as long as the agreement exists. But, there is an understanding that the day will come that the owner wants payment for use of that property and there will be a day when it is returned to the owner and he/she expects it to be in a certain order.

This world, the life of those around us, our families, everything is owned by God because He is the Creator of it all.

We are His caretakers of this life and this planet. It is our place to produce fruit and care for His creation until His return. The Bible is quite clear here and elsewhere that there will be a reconciling of accounts. We will answer for how we cared for these. There is an expectation of results.

I know little about planting a vineyard and growing grapes properly. I do know that a vineyard is a lifelong commitment. It takes a couple of years from the planting of the first vineyard before it produces any amount of usable fruit. It takes a few more years  to be able to drink the first wine. The understanding is that the owner wants His proper share of the first fruits. It is his after all.

The parable has an interesting progression of events that was not accidental.

  • The owner builds and plants a vineyard… God creates the world
  • He turns it over to others to care for… God gives Adam dominion over creation
  • After the proper amount of time, he sends servants to collect his share and check on things… God sends prophets, judges, and priests to speak for Him and guide the people.
  • The servants are killed or mistreated… Many of the prophets before Jesus were mistreated, beaten, and killed.
  • He sends His son to set things straight, but they kill him… God sends Jesus to set things right as Savior and Teacher. He is arrested, accused, beaten, and killed on a cross.
  • He returns and brings judgment and justice… God will return with justice at the proper time and there will be judgment.
  • The main difference, of course, is Jesus rose from the dead, the son in the story does not.

Jesus told the redemption story and prophesied His death and most people missed it at that moment. Again, that is very easy to do. Especially, if we are not living life intentionally in tune with God and His Word as led by His Spirit.

Tomorrow, we will look deeper into some the details from this parable.

In the meantime, what are your thoughts?

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