“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” …
Possession, they say, is nine-tenth of the law. While that old saying probably wouldn’t hold up in court, it does speak to a dark part of human nature that desires to have and to hold things that aren’t rightfully ours and to exercise control over people and possessions simply because we can. That’s not always a bad thing. For instance, it’s good for church members to feel a sense of ownership over our shared ministries and church property. We know none of us actually, legally owns the church, but feeling that sort of responsibility motivates us to care for the building and to work hard at growing our ministries. On the other hand, a desire to own what is not ours (envy) can lead us into even more terrible sins, like theft and violence.
Jesus’ parable builds on that sinful desire within each of us to expose a much larger problem in humanity. God created a good, beautiful world for us. He blesses us abundantly and gives us meaningful work that, along with his love for us, should fully satisfy our hearts. But we want more. We humans crave to possess and control and have our way with God’s world. We earn money and believe it’s ours. We buy things and hold them tightly in our fists. We even claim sovereignty over our own lives, as though we were not created in God’s image to love and honor him. We act, even if we are too fearful to say it out loud, like God is dead and we are in charge.
As we read Jesus’ parable, we can easily identify the tenants as the villains. How terrible they are! How greedy, ungrateful and violent. And yet, with every sin we join their rebellion. Instead, we should follow the example of the landowner’s servants, who willingly lay down their lives to obey their master. You belong to God, along with everything in this world. As Paul wrote, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Stop listening to what your envious heart desires, and embrace the good news that you belong to God through Jesus your Savior.
Almighty God, You own all things, including my life. I rejoice that You are a loving and generous Master. Forgive me for my rebellion, and help me to serve Your good purposes, in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian