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WHAT KIND OF TENANT ARE YOU?

Devotional for October 8, 2017 based upon Matthew 21: 33-46

We’ve all heard of Murphy’s Laws. Here are some of Murphy’s Laws for Landlords.

That sweet young girl with the baby you rented to will start dating the motorcyclist from hell the very next week.

Tenants always have at least one relative get sick or die each month – so they will always be late with the rent.

If a tenant attempts to replace the washer in the faucet, plan on having to replace the whole faucet, if not all the plumbing in the entire building.

Tenants will only lock themselves out in the middle of the night – or on Christmas.

At least one tenant’s check will be “lost in the mail” every month.

Every pet that gets lost will find its way to your rental.

The hardware store always closes five minutes before you get there.

A tenant’s ability to see dirt and damage is much greater when they move in than when they move out.

Everything in your rental will break 100 times faster than in your own home.

And whenever a tenant calls and says, “Hello, how are you?” something is drastically wrong.

There are three things that I find Jesus telling us in the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard, leased it to tenants, and then went to another country. The first one is this – GOD HAS CALLED US TO DO HIS WORK. God created the world and He created the church. And now He has called us to take care of that world and to be a part of the work of that church. It is a task we must take most seriously.

Second, GOD HAS EQUIPPED US TO DO HIS WORK. The vineyard in Jesus’ parable has everything necessary to do the work of a vineyard. The landowner did not just leave his tenants a patch of dirt and tell them, “Turn this patch of dirt into a prosperous vineyard.” Rather he gave them everything they would need to succeed. Just like God gave your church everything your church would need to do the work God wants your church to do.

The tenants never had it so good. Their landlord was no slumlord. Rather this was a prime piece of property. Not a fixer-upper in a run-down area that would require regular repair or much renovation. Rather the facilities included a surrounding wall, which would protect the property and give them some privacy; an on-site winepress, so the tenants would not have to outsource the work of distilling the wine; and a watchtower. The renters knew they had a real bargain. It was almost too good to be true. Just like the blessings that God has given to each one of us individually, as well as to our congregations, are almost too good to be true. All they would have to do would be to farm the land, reap the harvest, process the product, sell the wine, and uphold the agreement. But there’s the rub. Like so many other bad tenants, they did not want to uphold the agreement. They did not want to pay the rent.

The landowner sent servant after servant to give them one chance after another to pay the rent. But fists, sticks, and rocks kept raining down on the servants. Finally, Jesus tells us, the owner of the vineyard sent his son, thinking, certainly they will respect my son.

Now how the farmers got to the point of thinking they could be owners is beyond me. They were not just late in making payments. They were refusing to make payments. They were debtors, trespassers, and squatters, who wanted to be owners. They did not just want to not pay the rent. They wanted to keep the whole estate – land, fence, fruit, and tower. They wanted to keep the whole nine yards, and did not want to have to pay anything for it.

Eventually the landowner no longer put up with them. He came and put them to a miserable death and leased the vineyard to other tenants who would recognize the owner and pay the rent. And so the third thing that Jesus is telling us is this – GOD HOLDS US RESPONSIBLE TO DO HIS WORK.

Now Jesus originally told this parable to illustrate how Israel would reject Him. But this parable also has a message for us today. God is looking for people who will work His vineyard. Don’t try to usurp the place of God as the rightful owner of this world and of your life. Many churches around this time of the year hold their annual stewardship emphasis. As you consider what you want to do next year to support financially the work of His church and be involved in ministry, don’t forget whose vineyard this really is. Don’t forget whose work we are called to do. Don’t forget who owns it all.

Dennis D. Nelson

President of the Board and Director of Lutheran CORE