The Parable of the Vineyard

hands holding a cluster of grapes

Mathew 21:33 begins this parable:

Hear another parable. There was a man who was a master of a household, who planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a winepress in it, built a tower, leased it out to farmers, and went into another country. When the season of the fruits drew near, he sent his servants to the farmers, to receive his fruits. The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another.                             

Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did to them in like manner. But afterward he sent to them his son, saying, “They will respect my son.” But the farmers, when they saw the son, said among themselves, “This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and seize his inheritance.” So they took him, and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

When therefore the lord of the vineyard will come, what will he do to those farmers?

At the end end of the parable, Jesus has his audience — which included priests and Pharisees — reaching the conclusion He wants them to. But then they perceive that He’s talking about their own rejection of Him, and the religious leaders seek to capture Jesus. They withhold, however, because they fear the rest of the crowd.

Applying the Parable

Several times in Jesus’ parables, we see those who are in agreement with Him as long as they think He’s talking about someone else. But they reject Him as soon as the message becomes too personal. We can be exactly like that. We are good with pointing the sword of truth at others, but we have a hard time applying it to ourselves.

What can we then take from this parable about ourselves?

  • We Are Not in Control. This vineyard does not belong to the servants. It is not theirs to do with as they will. They have expectations to follow. Like Romans 11:36 says, all things are for Him, through Him, and to Him.
  • Esteem God’s Representatives. We all serve as God’s representatives, and we should all be respectful and kind to one another in service to Christ. We should also be receptive to God’s teachings through others.
  • Avoid False Confidence. Some of Jesus’ audience’s faith was placed in their past and their forbearers. Our fathers, our mothers, even our former selves do not define our faith now. We cannot let false confidence lead to complacency.

Honoring the Vineyard Owner

Lack of faith is currently the quickest growing trend in faith. More and more people are coming to the conclusion that there is no God. Even in the church, we might not reject God’s existence, but we might want to change Him to fit our own definitions of right and wrong like those in Isaiah 5:20. We might not want to say we’re turning evil into good, but that’s exactly what we’re doing when we’re trying to change God’s standards to match our own.

This is what we see back in the book of Judges when the author writes that there was no king in Israel. The problem was not that there was no one like King Solomon or King David in Israel. God had intentionally set His kingdom up without a physical king. Rather, the problem was that the people had stopped viewing God as their king. They had ceased to acknowledge that He is the one in control. They disregarded God’s messengers, and they were filled with false confidence.

Humbling Ourselves as Servants

The first step is admitting we need God, admitting our sin in a problem, and then replacing that former sin with His righteousness. I Peter 2:1 – 3 calls on us to lay aside sin in our lives and long for God’s word. Look at David’s words in Psalm 51, admitting His transgressions, pleading for forgiveness, and then seeking to realign himself with God. God enters and uplifts humble hearts.

Whenever you find yourself struggling, remember to hand control back over to God. Lay your burdens at His feet so that He may lift you up. Be okay with the fact that you are not in complete control, and hand control over to your Creator. Then, let’s lift one another up in our work to deliver God’s message to others, and let’s work diligently to be good workers of His vineyard. Instead of being like the workers in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 21, lets’ instead be like those in Luke 12:35:

Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the wedding feast, so that they may open the door to him at once when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.

lesson by Don Larsen