COLUMN: Take a walk in God's vineyard

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By Steve Gettinger

Today’s column is from a Sermon from Saint Luke 20:9-20.
In the gospel of Saint Luke, Jesus tells a parable about people losing their lives in service to their master. Jesus begins the parable by saying: A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. The farmers worked the vineyard so that it would produce for the owner. They would get paid a portion of the harvest for their labor. This was how business was done back then. The rules were to be honored and obeyed.
But in this parable the rules were not honored or obeyed. When harvest time came the owner sent his servants to the farmers to get his portion of the harvest, but the tenants took the servant and beat him. He sent a second servant and the tenants and they beat him. He sent a third servant and they beat him. The landowner followed the rules by sending his servants to collect the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants broke the rules by beating them terribly. Shocking isn’t it?
Why did the tenants beat the landowner’s servants? They did it because they were selfish and greedy. They wanted the landowner’s vineyard and its fruit.
What was the landowner to do? What would you do?
Finally the vineyard owner sent his son to collect from the tenants, thinking to himself, “They will respect my son.” Well, they didn’t respect the son: “When the tenants saw the owner’s son, they said among themselves, this is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.” So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What wicked, greedy, and sinful tenants! If you were the owner and they did this to your son, what would you want to do to them?
Allow me to shed some light on this parable, which is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. In the parable: God is the owner of the vineyard, the vineyard the world, the owner’s servants are the prophets of God sent to the people of Israel to encourage them to repent and bear fruit for God, the wicked tenants are the people in Israel who rejected God’s ways and will to do their own thing and their own will (mainly the chief priests and Pharisees), the owner’s son is Jesus whom the wicked tenants killed. The punishment that the owner (God) dishes out is to give his kingdom to those who have faith in him and bear good fruit as a result.
God’s will is for people to repent of their sins and cling to faith in Jesus. Then from a repentant heart of faith will flow the good works/fruits that God desires from his servants. Good works that flow from faith in Jesus are evident in how we spend our time, talents, treasure in service to God and our neighbor.
Now let’s spend a little time on how this parable is for us today. The sin of the tenants, in the parable, is that they were selfish and greedy. They wanted all the fruit for themselves and they wanted the vineyard that belonged to the owner as well. Well, what about us? Are we selfish and greedy or generous and giving?
What are we doing with the time, talent, and treasure that the Lord has given to us? All that we have is all on loan from God. Consider the words of the Apostle Paul to the Christians in the city of Corinth: “ Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body”. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
When God purchased you with the precious blood of Jesus, he bought it all: your life, your will, your possessions, your time, your talents, your treasure. You gave up everything to follow him. We are only mangers of the things we have been given by God. We are to use all we have in service to God.
When God gives us time (another day) to live on this planet, we should thank him and ask him: “Lord, what do you want me to do with this day?”
Maybe it is care for the children he has blessed you with. Maybe it is to work a job to produce a product for others and income for your family. Maybe it is to spend some time reading his word and taking time to pray. When God gives you a talent or gift, we should thank him for it and ask him: “Lord, what do you want me to do with this gift to bring you glory?” Maybe your gift is to serve others and the church through acts of service. Maybe your gift is to encourage others who are down or discouraged. Maybe your gift is to teach Sunday school, usher, clean the church, or help someone. When God blesses you with treasure/finances, we should thank him for it and ask him, “Lord, what do you what me to do with my finances to bring you glory?” Maybe he wants you use a portion of it to provide for you and your family’s needs. Maybe he wants you to use a portion of it for his church and his kingdom. There is something wonderful and freeing about using your time, talents, and treasure in service to God and neighbor. It is something you get to do.
There is nothing better than knowing you have been a blessing in the life of someone else. May our attitude be one of loving to give rather than loving to get.
May we find joy in being able to do something for someone else. May we have a desire to see people brought into the family of God.
Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Jesus, himself lived out those words when he was on this earth. He spent his time serving others, teaching others, healing others, praying for others, feeding others. He came to serve, not to be served. He gave his back side to be beaten with a whip by Roman soldiers for you.
He gave his head to be crowned with thorns for you. He gave his face to be beaten and spat upon for you. He gave his body to be nailed to a Roman cross for you. He hung on that cross being mocked and ridiculed for you. Finally, he gave up his very life for you, so that you might have the forgiveness of sins.
I close with more words from Matthew 16:24: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”