Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again, he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.” When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them. And although they were attempting to arrest him, they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.( Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46)
These days there is a lot being said about personal freedom. In fact, it has become a mantra for some – everything becomes a symbol of a person’s right to be in control.
The problem is whether you or I want the other person in control, or one political figure in control, or one philosophy of government in control. So instead of stepping back, thoughtfully analyzing a situation, and trying to discern what is right for all of us, too many react. In fact, what is “right for all of us” becomes what is “right for me and those that think like me.”
As followers of Christ, not only is that a philosophy that flies in the face of Jesus Christ, it’s also a philosophy that has implications for our eternal lives.
In the book, Opening Your Heart, the author writes, “Submit your personal freedom. That’s a pretty bold thing to ask . . . we’d be crazy to hand over our freedom to someone weak, someone we didn’t trust, someone selfish, someone driven by ego. But what would it feel like to submit personal freedom to someone who had proven Himself to be utterly trustworthy, who promised to never leave us, who was completely selfless to the point of death, whose humility was incomparable, and who was the supreme power in the universe?
The answer, of course, is Jesus Christ. In His eyes, we are bound one to another. In his plan for us, we submit His will for ours. In his words, we uphold each other, we acknowledge each person’s dignity and right to life and when we finally realize His plan for us, we acknowledge Him as the King of our lives. Not our ego but His.
That does not mean that we are captive. Instead, we are given greater freedom. We are free of the personal demons that haunt us. We can not think of ourselves flawed because we are His creation. We are His child. We are given the freedom from addiction because He is there to hold our hand, to walk with us, to strengthen us in every trial.
There is no scar we can carry or bear that cannot be erased by His love. All it takes is our turning to Him, acknowledging our life as the one created by Him and asking Him to be the Lord of our lives.
The freedom we live with was bought and preserved by many who gave their lives that we might be free. So many men and women throughout history have sublimated their lives for a greater cause. The history of this country is built on freedom from tyranny. Tyranny of one over another. Tyranny that says I am better than you so I have a right to impose my will. Tyranny that is so evil that it decides who will live and die. Even today, the struggle goes on.
We see a despot seeking to claim a country to “restore his country to greater glory.” And Ukrainians throughout their country are fighting and dying to say this is our country and it belongs to our people, Notice the shift in pronouns. Not his country but OUR country.
If we truly say that we are followers of Christ then there is a challenge that confronts us. The challenge is whether we will use His gifts in ways that benefit not only ourselves and our loved ones but in ways that will benefit others, particularly those who live at the margins of our society, those with no voice. We have to. Time and again, in scripture, he reminds us that we are our brother’s keeper. Because he made us brothers and sisters.
These words of Jesus are a challenge to our culture of “ownership, autonomy, and self-reliance.” The basis of this allegory in Matthew is that we forget in fact who owns all of life and all of creation. It points to the risk when we start to think we own what we are a part of instead of being stewards of what God has given us to use while we pass through this life.
When we play to the world and reject God’s control, we are as guilty as the tenants of the parable.
Prayer of The Day
“Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us – for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us. O most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, for your own sake. “(prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, 13th century)
The risk with all segments of our lives is that we will become possessive. We can be guilty of seeking to speak to the various challenges of the world not as Christ would lead us but in ways that are convenient or self-serving for ourselves. Thus, our measure is no longer the Gospel but popular opinion. Or when we need to reach out to the needs of others, we place self first. We begin to see stewardship as a burden instead of a joyful response to all that God has done.
The truth is we cannot put God in any place accept as our Lord and our Father. We must recognize God as the one charge and we need to remember that God, just like the landlord, doesn’t give up easy.