Jesus turns up the heat this week, recounting another parable to confront the chief priests and elders of Jerusalem. Because the lectionary pairs it with Isaiah’s song of the vineyard, we might think at first that the problem with the vineyard in the Gospel is the vineyard itself and its produce—God’s people being the vineyard and their works of faith its fruit.
But in fact, in the Gospel, the vineyard and produce are just fine. The trouble is with the tenants—the chief priests and elders—responsible for tending the vineyard. They refuse to pay the share that rightfully belongs to the landowner, and they employ violence against the landowner’s servants and ultimately murder his son.Those who honor God recognize that all they have has been given by God, who seeks for its fruitful return by our obedience to God’s will. Click To Tweet
Some will read this as a cautionary tale for those in leadership responsible for tending God’s vineyard. Others might read it as a warning to those who reject Jesus, the landowner’s son. Our understanding deepens, however, when we realize that in both Matthew’s and Mark’s versions, this parable also sets up the debate of paying taxes to Caesar and Jesus’s call to discern what belongs to God.
The tenants’ sin was believing they had a rightful claim to what was not theirs. But those who honor God recognize that all they have has been given by God, who seeks for its fruitful return by our obedience to God’s will.