Have you ever tried to imagine what it would be like to be God? Sure, it’s a stretch, but that’s exactly what Jesus asked His hearers to do when He told them this story.
The landowner who rents his vineyard to some tenant farmers is unmistakably the Creator of the world. The farmers are the human race given a wonderful opportunity to manage the earth under their Creator. What happens in the parable is literally the abuse of God. First the owner’s servants are attacked and killed. Then the landowner’s son is murdered. The motive? Selfishness. Taking over the owner’s property by whatever means it took to get the job done.
In telling the story Jesus was predicting His own violent execution at the cross. He was outlining human history and specifically, Israel’s history. The servants who had been bullied and victimized by the greedy farmers were the prophets. God sent them to ask for what was His by right of ownership…the kingdoms of their hearts.
Injustice is the theme of the story. The violation of the owner’s rights to his vineyard and the criminal acts of violence perpetrated against his representatives illustrate that this is the way humans treat God.
If you think that Jesus might have been exaggerating to make a point, consider some common modern examples.
- If you or I were to verbalize Biblical standards for sexual behavior on any secular high school or university campus in the country…we would provoke ridicule and scorn such as we had never experienced before. Today the prevailing attitude among the vast majority of adults is that their body (vineyard) is their own to do with as they please. Nothing produces a more predictable hostile reaction than suggesting that God owns them and has the right to tell them what to do.
- Another volatile subject is money. If God’s claim on our property and financial resources were to be pressed, all hell would break loose. The idea that all we have belongs to God is reprehensible to most people. They become violently angry at the suggestion that God has a right to even a portion of their income.
- If you or I said there is only One True God and only one way to get into His heaven—-what would happen? Isn’t it true that the people of our world would immediately label us right-winged, religious fundamentalists and intolerant bigots? In today’s culture truth is not something that even God can declare with authority. Each person is their own authority with the right to select their own version of truth.
Perhaps Jesus wasn’t so radical in His assessment of our takeover of God’s ownership and leadership rights after all.