March 23 – Devotion Sharing (Luke 20)

Submitted by Michelle S. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • Owner, tenant, fruit
  • “My son, whom I love”

What did the tenants of this vineyard not understand properly?  They did not understand that the relationship between the owner and the tenants.  The owner had rights to ask for the fruit from the tenants and the tenants had to give without resistance.  That was supposed to be the nature of their relationship and that was the agreement made in the very beginning of their relationship.  However, because the owner was long time in coming, the tenants started to think that they owned the vineyard and started to get possessive over the vineyard that was not their own.  They found the request of the owner offensive, and they justified their actions by beating the servant that the owner sent.

The tenants got used to the idea of being the owners of their vineyard.  Even though that was not the agreement, they forgot and started to believe that they owned the vineyard.  They got so used to being their own boss, that when the servant was sent to ask for what was rightfully the owners, they reacted in a very hostile way.

The tenants were offended at the requests that were made of them.  If they had remembered back to their history and their relationships, they would have remembered that they were only given the privilege of tending the vineyard, and they were never the owners to begin with.  So then they react with such hostility towards the owner and therefore treats the servants in a very shameful way, eventually even killing the son who comes to take what is rightfully his.  They acted with such fierce hostility even to the point of killing.  It’s really scary but it’s true that within us is the ability to even kill and to do whatever it takes to protect what I think is mine.  Even the seemingly very meek person, when his rights are violated can turn into a vicious enemy, hissing and ferociously fighting back.

The tenants were also thoroughly mistaken about their future and they miscalculated their own reality and world.   They thought that the inheritance was something that they could take by force.  The inheritance is something that can only be granted to the son, only through the relationship with the father.  No one can just step into this place of blessing, but it has to be granted by the father, the owner.  The tenants were mistaken because they thought that they could take it by brute force and by their will power just as they were mistaken when they thought that by withholding the fruit of the vineyard, they were able to secure their future by robbing the owner.

This is a picture of what we do to God as we are like the tenants who live based on borrowed time and resources from God.  We are the tenants who do not own anything for ourselves.  Our livelihood and our very existence are because of who God is and yet we so often forget this very important fact about our lives.  We forget that we live in a limited time, that there is an end to our lifetime and we also forget that the life we live is not our own to keep or to claim as our own.  When we forget the owner, the creator of our lives, then everything else starts to go wrong.  By usurping the place of the owner and pretending that I am the owner of my own life, I become this insecure and vicious person.  I am insecure because deep down I know that I am an illegitimate owner and that the owner of my life can come any time and claim it.   I know it because I know that I don’t control so many things in my life.  I have no control over my health and the other unforeseen events in my life.  I become so deeply insecure and any sense of losing control over this makes me then really vicious and hostile towards those whom I perceive to be my enemy.  If I am the owner, then the one who claims to be the owner of my life becomes my number one enemy.  The folly of fighting to secure something that I cannot hold onto and therefore becoming this mean, ferocious and protective is the natural course of where this kind of unsurrendered life will take me.

In the end the owner will prevail because he is the owner.  The tenants who do not acknowledge their owner will be get what they deserve and therefore my response should be to live with the first and most important truth in mind always.  I am not the owner, but God is. I am only a tenant and that means I do not have a say in how I should live my life.  God owns me and I belong to God. What a comforting thought it is that I belong to God!

Submitted by Ken H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Luke 20:9-16

  • What is surprising about the tenants’ response?  What facts or truths are they determined to oppose?  

The tenants rejected the vineyard owner’s share in the harvest of the vineyard; they denied the owner’s servants by beating and wounding them; and finally, they murdered the owner’s son and sought to overtake the son’s inheritance from the owner.  These tenants essentially resented and rejected the owner’s rightful ownership of the vineyard, and sought to possess the land for themselves through violence.  The tenants’ response was surprising here, because: (1) the tenants rejected and opposed the owner’s ownership of the vineyard and share of the crops, when the sharecropping agreement between the owner and the tenants called for such rightful share.  The tenants sought to treat the vineyard as their own; (2) furthermore, the tenants’ response was surprising because their opposition to the owner was rebellious and violent, in stark contrast with the owner’s patient and persistent approach to treat the tenants with great restraint; and (3) finally, not only did the tenants oppose the owner’s rightful share and ownership, they actually sought to also overtake the son’s inheritance from the owner by murdering him, escalating the already criminal acts of hostile takeover to an unforgivable offense.

The tenants’ lawless rebellions against the owner indicate that they were determined to oppose the truths that the owner rightfully owned the property and he could rightfully collect his share of the crops.  The tenants were determined to see the vineyard and the son’s inheritance as their very own, despite the owner’s generosity in forgiveness and patience for the tenants to clean up their acts after their multiple offenses.  They were determined to not live up to their responsibility and obligation as tenants of the vineyard.  The tenants also ignored the facts of the owner’s kindness and patience by repeating their offenses and finally escalating their culpability through murder.

  • What fundamental relationship between God, man, and Jesus is illustrated in this parable? 

This parable illustrates God’s rightful ownership of man’s life, as well as God’s patient persistence in dealing with man’s rejection and opposition of God’s ownership.  Man is only a tenant over his life, and God, as the creator and owner of such life, has a rightful claim and say over how man’s life ought to be lived and what kind of fruits such life shall reap.

The parable also illustrates man’s sinful determination to reject God and his claim over man, and the extent in which man can go to reject God, especially through the murder of the son-character in the parable, who represents Jesus.  In order to restore his ownership over man, God even sent his own son, Jesus Christ, to humanity to call for man’s repentance.   Yet Jesus was ultimately rejected during his time on earth and was murdered by man.

  • To what extent have I fully acknowledged that I am a tenant over my life, and that God is owed the fruit of my life?

I need to acknowledge that my life resembles the lives of these wicked tenants in the parable.  My reactions to God’s rightful claim and ownership begin almost entirely with hostility and instinctive resentment.  I want to live my life my own way, with complete freedom to determine how I spend my own time, my money, my resources, what my future should look like and how I can treat other people.  It is not a stretch to say that the level of my own rebelliousness against God’s claim over my life is like that of the tenants in this parable: when God sent well-intentioned people in my life to warn me and to straighten me out, I would treat them with contempt and seek to reassert my own claim over my life by ignoring their corrections and helps.  Often I don’t welcome such messengers in my life.

However, I am naïve and foolish to think that such life of liberty and autonomy would lead me to happiness and purpose.  In fact, such life of rejecting God’s claim and boundaries over my life only lead to strife, guilt and shame, more greed and selfishness, and a feeling of lack of purpose and lostness.  Such life resembles the life of the prodigal son from the parable described in Luke 15, a life in the pigsty after squandering many opportunities given by God to reclaim his full stake in my life.  The fact of the matter is that, I need to realize that God, like the landlord in this parable, has been more than patient and generous with me–instead of rejecting me and my rebelliousness and cut off his relationship with me outright (which God can rightfully do), He has been persistent in his generosity, patience, and kindness with me by waiting for my return like the Father in the prodigal son parable.  In fact, the Father desires for my return so that my life can bear the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) and of participating in his kingdom’s work, making eternal differences in the lives of others through servicing others and God’s church.

I need to start by fully acknowledging God’s rightful claim over all aspects of my life, and the fact that my life is not my own.  I need to acknowledge also my sinful attitude and contempt toward God and his claim, and fully repent.  I need to acknowledge God’s persistent patience and graciousness with me, but not squandering his patience.  I am obligated to God because of his claim over me, and therefore I will give all that is rightfully his: my time, my money and resources, and my body for his service, to produce fruits in keeping with repentance.

PERSONAL PRAYER                                                           

Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that I will not be like the wicked tenants in the parable, who conscientiously and rebelliously reject your claim over their lives.  I pray that I will acknowledge the fundamental truths of your ownership and claim over my life and to live this out by letting you take possession of my time, my money and resources, and also how I treat other people.  Dear God, I thank you for your kindness and abounding love and graciousness by being patient with me.  Please help me not to take the gravity of my sin and rebelliousness lightly, for I learn that sins, left alone and undone, can escalate and ultimately be destructive.  I pray that my life will produce fruits that are rightfully yours, in keeping with repentance.  In Christ’s name I pray, Amen.

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