In the Parable of the Tenants which Matthew records at 21:33-46, Jesus tells of a landowner who had created a first-class vineyard. The owner then passed the operation over to some tenant farmers and left them to look after it.
Since a new vineyard could take years to be productive, that gave the tenants all the time they needed. They had been given a golden opportunity.
Eventually, when harvest comes around, the landowner sends his servants to collect what had been agreed. Surprisingly, they are beaten savagely, with one even being murdered.
The landowner tried again and sent other servants, but the same thing happened to them. Finally, the landowner sends his own son but, he too was rejected and killed.
The outcome was that those tenants were dealt with harshly by the landowner who threw them out and new tenants were given the opportunity to take care of the vineyard.
In this parable, it is apparent that the landowner is God and the vineyard is Israel. The tenants are the people or their religious leaders while the servants are the Old Testament Prophets, and Jesus is the son.
The parable reflects how, when the people had turned from God, He reached out to them through the Prophets who continued to give Godís message; but they were ignored and abused.
Even when God sent His Son, the religious leaders also rejected him; even as Jesus is telling this parable, they are plotting against him.
Now, while we may see clearly all that was wrong with the actions of the tenants, we too are challenged by this parable, because we are also tenants. We are tenants of this world God has created. We are tenants of Godís vineyard today. We are tenants of the gifts God had given us.
As tenants of Godís world, we are called to look after and be good stewards of the world and its resources; resources which are often are unfairly shared out.
As we know, the way the world economy works is that those counties with power get more while the poorer and weaker nations get less.
While some live in comfort, others know only hardship. While we have plenty to eat and only have to turn on the tap to get as much fresh water as we want, others struggle for both. As Godís people we are to work for justice in the world.
In the parable, the tenants ran the landlordís vineyard for their own benefit. As todayís tenants, we are to work and care for Godís creation for the benefit of all and for the Glory of God.
In the same way that the landowner equipped the tenants with everything to make their work fruitful, so too, we have been blessed by God. When God gives us a job to do; He also gives us the means to do it.
We are entrusted with Godís work and He gives us the freedom and time to carry it out, each according to our abilities.
Of course, we could be selfish and sit back and use what we have been given for our own purposes, but that approach didnít work out well for the tenants in the parable.
So, what are we to do? We are to share Godís love, show Godís concern for all and Godís desire that all are united in Him.
While we may feel daunted that the world is the vineyard in which we are to work and it is too much for us, we can also think of the vineyard in a more local way.
The vineyard also means the people, relationships and events of our lives that God has entrusted to our care. It is our families, people we know, our communities and places where we go; there we can show Godís love.
Whilst still in the midst of an ongoing pandemic with all sorts of restrictions curtailing normal life, the tendency for many is to mark time and wait until things get better.
Yet, we know that God doesnít stand still. He is creating and re-creating all the time; always at work, reaching out.
We are asked not just to tend the vineyard and keep it ticking over, we are asked to work to make it fruitful.
So, in Godís vineyard, what are we doing today? Are we hard at work? The question is, ĎWhat sort of tenants are we in Godís vineyard, today?í
Lord of the vineyard, rooted and grafted in You, tend the vine you have planted. Nourish and strengthen us for the work You have set. May we work tirelessly in Your vineyard today reflecting Your grace and mercy in our lives.
As the tenants in Jesusí parable abused the trust placed in them, misused the gifts with which they had been blessed and squandered the great opportunity they had been given, help us be faithful servants in Your vineyard.
Enable us to see and appreciate the unique gifts You have given us. Guide us in ways to best use those gifts and resources for the benefit of all and for Your glory.
Lord of the vineyard, sustain all who look to You in hope. Strengthen us and feed us, Your people, so that we may bear fruit in abundance. Root us firmly in Your love. In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, we pray.
Amen, and as we continue working in Godís vineyard, we work knowing that He is with us.