4/8/2020 – The Parable of the Tenant Farmers
Passage: Matthew 21:33-45
Written By: Taylor Loy – U of A Wesley Pastoral Intern (2017-2018)
This is Lent, so it is the perfect time to do what I am about to do: make confession. So, let’s get started:
I confess to Almighty God, before you and before the whole host of heaven that I have sinned in what I have done and what I have failed to do. Because, I confess, I tend to do things at the very last minute. And if I don’t have a firm deadline — whew — it can get bad!
My particular sin is rooted in an inattention to the importance of completing tasks now and of a sinful jealously of my own time. So, it’s really about me hoarding my own time and talent over others. Interestingly, lack of patience and a jealously of possessions is what we now, more than ever, need to talk about.
Both our scripture reading in Matthew as well as the text broadcast across countless news agencies in our lands resound a similar siren song: “death to those who would deny us our inheritance!” So, maybe it hasn’t been said in so many words. But almost. Many are the voices that would advocate that the cost to the economy isn’t worth the lives self-isolation would save. Mammon is a jealous god and, to quote Gandalf the Wise, “he doesn’t share power.” It’s why Jesus said explicitly (in the Greek anyway): “you cannot serve God and μαμωνᾷ (mammon). You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). I am proud that our church has taken the coronavirus pandemic so seriously and directed congregations to disband in-person gatherings for the coming weeks in an effort to protect its members and those with whom they interact. The church, too, will suffer financially, but lives will be saved.
This parable is one of the most confusing in all the gospels, because, on its surface, it seems to illustrate how in those days the Jews would reject (and kill) the prophets, especially those prophets who brought ill news of coming destruction if the false idols (like mammon) were not destroyed. Upon a deeper inspection, however, this story has something to say about what happens when we place the sovereignty of anything over the kingdom of God, whether culture, way of life, and, yes, even 401(k)'s.
How many lives are we willing to risk for the DOW? How many lives are worth jeopardizing to protect against trillions in lost economic output? I believe these are the questions our nation is really wrestling with right now. The cure, some have said, is worse than the disease. And yet, Jesus’s words haunt me: “I tell you, the kingdom of God will be… given to a people that produce the fruits of the kingdom.” The fruit today are human lives. And they can be saved by something as simple as staying home and sacrificing the false god of money for what God thought was the most important thing worth saving (and the chief reason God went to the cross in the first place): human lives. We must support our leaders in the difficult decisions that they have to make because ordering people to stay home means they are out of work. Even now, my wife and I are anxiously waiting to learn if she, a mere Green Card holder and no citizen, will receive the unemployment support that millions are trying to attain. These are hard decisions and we need to have the grace to both forgive others and the willingness to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others as Jesus did for us.
Jesus died for us that we might live. Let us be willing to sacrifice the false god of money and our own jealously guarded time and freedom for the sake of others, those for whom Jesus came to save.