Matt 21:33-43, 45-46
The Parable of the Tenants
Somebody sent me this text message about some TV commercials and use them, in some way, to communicate ideas about God. Here they are:
God is like Bayer Aspirin – He works miracles.
God is like a Ford – He’s got a better idea.
God is like Coke – He’s the real thing.
God is like Hallmark Cards – He cares enough to send His very best.
God is like General Electric – He brings good things to life.
God is like Alka-Seltzer – Try him you’ll like Him.
God is like Scotch Tape – You can’t see him, but you know He’s there.
God is like Dial Soap – Aren’t you glad you have Him. Don’t you wish everybody did.
God is like Tide – He gets the stains out that others leave behind.
Today’s gospel is about the parable of the vineyard. In Galilee there were numerous vineyards and it was quite common for the owners to let their estates to be rented to tenants. Many did it for the sole purpose of collecting rent at the right time. Why did Jesus’ story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees? They were offended because it contained both a prophetic message and a warning. This parable of the vineyard speaks to us today also.
What is the message of the parable? This parable tells us some important truths about God and the way he deals with His people. First, it tells us of God’s generosity and trust. The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need. The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants. God, likewise, trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose.
God’s ways, in one sense, can never become ours. But we can become more godlike in our actions, in recognizing generosity and in dispensing mercy to others. While we can never equal God’s ways, we can try to imitate the divine patterns of seeking and finding those who desire to work during the day but cannot. We need to be sensitive to the good-hearted who want salvation but do not know in what direction to turn. But what is more also in our task is to open our hearts, be diligent with our hands and turn our thoughts to doing good for others.
This parable also tells us of God’s patience and justice. Not once, but many times He forgives the tenants their debts. Let us now look at Psalm 103:10-11, we are given a glimpse, as in many other places and scriptures, we’re told that the Lord “has not dealt with us after our sins. He has not rewarded us according to our iniquities for as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far as he removed our transgressions from us.”
So how God forgives us? Well we see that His forgiveness is complete. It’s permanent; it’s unconditional and this is what I love about it, it’s underserved. It is absolutely undeserved. We cannot earn it, we cannot work for it. We cannot perform harder to get it. His forgiveness is all of grace.
But let us also remember that while the tenants take advantage of the owner’s patience and forgiveness, His judgment and justice prevail in the end.