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Matthew 21:33-46

NOTE: While Pastor Charlie is on a trip out of the country through June 5, he has chosen some of his favorite blog posts from his weblog from 2020 to 2021 to share.

From: October 4, 2020

Matthew 21:33-46

[Jesus said to the people:] 33“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”   45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

What is ours, and what belongs to God? I shared this before, but I think it speaks well to the lessons for today. A list of toddler property laws:

  1. If I like it, it is mine.

  2. If it is in my hand, it is mine.

  3. If I can take it from you, it is mine!

  4. If I had it a little while ago, it is mine.

  5. If it IS mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way.

  6. If I am doing or building something, all the pieces are mine.

  7. If it looks like mine, it is mine!

Jesus told a parable to the religious leaders of his day. A landowner plants a vineyard, prepares it all perfectly with fence and wine press and even a watch tower. Then he leases the land to tenants and goes away out of the country. Those tenants work the ground. They prune the vines. They carry water when necessary. They cover the plants when it gets cold. They repair the fence. The keep the animals out. They clean the wine press. They apply fertilizer.

The disciples and the teachers of the law and the millions of people that have heard this parable through the centuries have understood what Jesus was talking about. The story forces us to take the side of the landowner. And as soon as we do, we start to recognize that God is the landowner. We are the tenants. God provides everything we need in order to live our lives. In spite of it all, we walk around calling it "mine".

Then, when we review the story of God's dealings with God's people, it gets to be rather embarrassing … especially in light of these Toddler's Property Laws. There always seems to be something that belongs to God as "landowner" that we the "tenants" believe is "mine".

  • A tree in the garden … why shouldn't Adam and Eve eat from it, this garden was "mine".

  • A day of the week … does God really think we should set one aside? My time is "mine".

  • A share of the gifts God gives … talents and gifts and energy. I'm the one with the gifts so the gifts are "mine" and I'll use them how I see fit.

  • Church, family, property, ideas, plans … all mine, mine, mine!

We overlook only one thing … God's place in the picture. Jesus reminds those listening to him that he is the cornerstone. Everything depends on the cornerstone or the keystone. Without the keystone one has a heap of stone. With it in place, an arch is possible.

When we work and focus only on ourselves, we run into trouble. May I remind you that sin is not primarily doing bad things, but an attitude of selfishness that has no need for God -- in fact, God becomes a nuisance who can get in the way of selfish desires, that is to say, demanding that we give to God some of our produce -- so we kill God. The key to producing good fruit is to stay connected to and rooted in God.

So the question is, "whose vineyard is it?" It belongs to God. What are we to do with the gifts God has given us? There is a tendency when you have something for a long time to believe it belongs to you. Being people of short memories, we forget the way things are. That which we are just using now become ours. It is like our homes, MY home, all the while the bank holds the mortgage on the property! Stop paying house payments for a couple months, they will let you know whose home it is.

The Bible says that the chief priests and the Pharisees realized Jesus was speaking about them. Maybe that's why they wanted to arrest Jesus right then and there. We don't even have that luxury. The only thing we can do if we don't like what Jesus is saying to us is try to ignore it.

We need to rewrite these Toddler's Property Laws into God's Property Laws, and live them.

1 If I like it, it's God's.

2 If it's in my hand, God gave it to me.

3 If I can take it from you, it's still God's.

4 If I had it a little while ago, it's God's.

5 If it's God's, it must never appear to be mine in any way.

6 If I'm doing or building something, all the pieces are God's.

7 If it looks just like God's, it is God's.

8 If I worked hard to get it, thanks for the gift God.

9 If it is God's (and it is), I ought to use the gift to give glory to God!

10 No matter what I do, I can't change the fact that it is God's.

May we place our trust on Christ, our cornerstone, our foundation.

Let us pray: For all you provide for us, Almighty God, we give you thanks. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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