In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells the chief priests and elders a parable about some tenants who make some terrible decisions.
In the story, there is a landowner, who lovingly planted a vineyard, leased it to some tenants, then traveled to another country. When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the vineyard to collect his share of the produce. But the tenants seized the servants. They beat one, killed another, and stoned the third.
In response, the landowner sent a second group of servants to the vineyard — but the tenants killed them as well. Finally, the landowner decided to send his own son to reason with the tenants. Surely, the landowner thought, “they will respect my son."
They did not. When the tenants saw the heir of the vineyard approaching, they created a plan to murder him and claim his inheritance. Ultimately, they seized the son, threw him out of the vineyard, and took his life.
Jesus concludes the parable with a question for the chief priests and the elders: “When the landowner returns to his vineyard, what will he do to those tenants?”
The parable is popularly called “The Parable of the Wicked Tenants.” Jesus tells it as a way of accusing the religious leaders of mistreating God’s people, the people of Israel, God’s vineyard.
Because what the tenants in the story neglect to understand, or maybe choose to ignore, is that they are the stewards rather than the owners of the vineyard. When the landowner asks for his rightful share of the harvest, the tenants take offense. As if the vineyard belongs to them, and it is the landowner who is in the wrong for making a claim on the land at all.
Somewhere along the way, the tenants forgot their place.
But what’s interesting here, is that the tenants aren’t described as thieves or marauders; they are not outsiders. They are the landowner’s trusted tenants. The landowner chose them and invited them to steward the vineyard while he was away.
I find myself wondering how often we view ourselves more as owners than as stewards?
I think as humans we crave ownership. We like possessing things. We like controlling things. Maybe we even believe that things exist primarily to please, feed, entertain, soothe, empower, and protect us.
But God doesn’t give us ownership, rather God calls us to be stewards. And the fact that God would trust us to stewards at all is in itself a miracle.
Grace and peace,