“Therefore 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.” Matthew 21:43
In this parable of the wicked tenants, Jesus is aiming his point right at the chief priests and Pharisees who were listening intently. They didn’t like this man who constantly challenged their authority as well as the content of what they were teaching. To be fair, we need to remember that their intentions were honorable as far as what they taught. They believed they were doing the right thing, but when this “whipper-snapper” came along and told them they were wrong, they didn’t like it one bit.
They would have understood the images of the vineyard and the workers. The tenants were renting the property and harvesting the crop, and the owner would be paid from the proceeds; however, the tenants didn’t like having to share, so they made sure that the messengers were put to death, even the owner’s son.
Jesus is telling them what they will eventually do – that is to put him to death because he was too threatening. This parable told them that they were teaching the wrong things, enforcing the laws of Judaism in the wrong ways, and they didn’t want to share their authority with anyone who “wasn’t one of them.” Jesus bent the rules, questioned their actions, called them hypocrites, and brought change.
Maybe that’s the key link from this passage in the Bible to our own lives. Most of us don’t like change. Yet, we also think of change as negative – it doesn’t have to be that way. Some changes are good. When I met my husband, Dave, it brought a huge change to my life, but it was the best change I could have ever experienced. When I entered seminary, I went through tremendous changes, even losing a friend over it, but they ended up being healthy changes that also moved me toward following God’s call in my life.
Change, questioning the way we have always done something, trying something new can be very good for a church. When churches refuse to change, they often lose members, begin to stagnate, and withdraw into themselves. Even as the cells of our body change so we can have healthy renewing skin every day, our churches need to get rid of things that hold them back from becoming the type of people God intends for them to be: cooperative, sharing, giving, generous people.
If we are to bear fruit as congregations, we need to show the fruits of the Spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. How will that look? Are we acting like the wicked tenants and fighting away those who would call us to accountability or who might bring change? Or are we bearing fruit and sharing it freely and generously?
It’s worth some thought.