“A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and then went on a journey for a long time.” (Luke 20:9)
Jesus had just entered Jerusalem in a triumphal way. He had cleared the temple of the moneychangers and was teaching in the temple courts. A few days earlier, he had raised Lazarus from the dead. The chief priests and elders were challenging Jesus and asking by what authority he was doing all of these things. Jesus responds with the parable of the tenants (Luke 20:9-19), which may be viewed as follows:
A man planted a vineyard – God created all that exists.
The man rented the vineyard to some tenant farmers – God entrusts creation to us and gives us dominion over it with the specific instruction “to cultivate and take care of it.” (Gen. 2:15)
At harvest time he sent his servants and subsequently his son to collect some of the fruit, but the tenants beat the servants and killed the son, claiming the vineyard for themselves. Just as the tenants attempted to claim ownership of the vineyard, so has the human race attempted to claim ownership of creation, denying the creator and determining for itself what is right and wrong, true or false.
The response of the vineyard owner was harsh. He killed the tenants and gave the vineyard to others. The chief priests and elders realized Jesus was talking about them.
What kind of tenants are we of the responsibilities God has entrusted to us? He gives each of us a lease of time in this physical world with varying durations. He entrusts us with various talents. He puts people in our lives. He has a job or work that is to be our contribution to taking care of his creation. He expects some fruit to come from his lease to us. For me and many of us, any review of our lives will likely produce a mixed report with both positive and negative fruit.
Recently I was rereading a book of letters our adult children had put together from family and friends to celebrate a particular birthday of mine a few years ago. In the letters from the children were various memories of when I spent time with them while they were young, playing a game, taking a hike, building something, making a trail through the woods or sharing some advice which they had requested of me. Most of these moments I had forgotten, but they had not. While I may not have realized it then, these times given to me by God in my lease from him were bearing fruit, and may have contributed in some small way to where our children are today, all Christian adults with families of their own and bearing fruit in their turn.
Time, spouse, children, work, friends, ministry and faith — all are part of the lease God gives to each of us. All are precious seeds waiting to bear fruit for the Lord under our tenancy.
Reflect on what kind of tenant you have been of God’s lease to you. Are there any changes you would like to make going forward?