"..Yet in My Flesh I Will See GOD" [Job. 19.26]

Thursday, November 30, 2017

How Well Do You Know God's Kingdom? [6] SERVANTS AND TENANTS IN THE KINGDOM

Servants and Tenants in the Kingdom


I don't know if you've noticed it. But in one Kingdom parable, Jesus let us look closer into some realities in God's Kingdom. Matthew 21 tells us of a story about a landowner, tenants, servants and a vineyard. The vineyard was left by the owner to tenants who had to give him his share of the fruit. The owners sent his servants to collect it for him.

I know this is about how Israel rebelled against God in the Old Testament no matter how many prophets God sent them to repent. Then last of all, he sent his Son Jesus whom they killed. But this story can have lots of other insights for the church. After all, the Christian church is very much a part of God's chosen people through Christ. We are no longer aliens and strangers but fellow citizens in the new spiritual Israel.

So, in the Kingdom, there are servants and tenants. Tenants work the vineyard while servants are sent to collect the owner's fruit. But in the story, the tenants refused to give the owner's share and instead beat up, killed or stoned the servants who were sent. The servants couldn't be angels because humans cannot beat up angels, for sure. So these are human believers.

Here's the Insight

This scenario continues to this day because Jesus said the owner "will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." Moreover, Jesus revealed that the Kingdom will be taken away from unworthy builders---or those who think they're building God's Kingdom but are actually stealing it from Him (or building their own)---and given to those "who will produce its fruit." And the Kingdom fruit is the Beatitude Life or the Jesus LIFE and character. See discussions in previous posts titled "How Well Do You Know the Kingdom."

And the term "tenants" here symbolizes or refers to "builders" or religious leaders in Jesus' time. The Pharisees and law teachers. But it also applies to church leaders and workers who seem to be working for God but who reject Jesus and his ministry ways, as seen in Jesus' conclusion in this parable:

The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

They "rejected" the Stone that became the Cornerstone when they killed the Son---the Heir---refusing to give him the owner's fruit and even seriously contemplating on stealing the whole vineyard, saying, "This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance."

Today, you reject the Cornerstone if you don't do ministry the way Jesus did it. Instead, you do it in man's ways.

Who are Servants and Who are Tenants?

So, who are the servants and who are the tenants? It depends on you. Who are you going to be? First of all, servants are concerned about the fruit of the owner, or God's fruit. Nothing more. Second, they are serious about returning to the owner all that are his. They don't claim anything for their own---although they are co-heirs with the Son. In contrast, tenants in this parable were interested only in what they could get from the owner, even get rid of him. 

"Tenants," in this story, are portrayed as those who only want to grab the vineyard from God. Yes, they work in the Kingdom (in fact, they probably work so hard because the vineyard produces fruit) but want to claim ownership of it. They can play Christians, but when the genuine Jesus Christ begins to take charge and claim rightful ownership of the vineyard, they actually hate it. 

You often see this in church. They love it if everything goes along with their long cherished church traditions, manuals, policies, human theologies and doctrines. As long as no one takes Jesus seriously. But the moment you take Jesus and His Word seriously, especially the Beatitude Life, all hell breaks lose in church against you. It's as if they hate seeing the Son, the Heir, and want to get rid of him so the vineyard could be theirs. 

Servants are Not Tenants

True servants of God are not "renting workers" in the Kingdom. Renters, in a sense, are given some privilege in the property they rent as long as they give what is due the owner. But the privilege is NEVER permanent. They have no real heart for the vineyard but they work hard in it because they get something out of it. Once the vineyard seems unproductive, they easily transfer to another vineyard. 

Servants do not "rent" in the Kingdom. They are well trusted fruit collectors of the owner. Old Testament prophets were sent to tell people what God wanted or expected (the fruit). Servants likewise are sent to declare to Kingdom workers how the work should be done and what fruit is needed. 

Actually, God always looks for worthy tenants. He said he will give the Kingdom to a people (or a nation, so this is for the Filipino church, too) who will produce its fruit, and that means God is always in search of worthy tenants, especially those who will give God all that is due him---tenants who will not usurp power, control and authority in the Kingdom or usurp ownership. And he also always looks for super trustworthy servants who can fearlessly collect his fruit (even among greedy and rebellious tenants), be honest with God's wealth and declare the vineyard as God's alone.

And my guess is that, after you have been proven to be a trustworthy tenant, God promotes you to being his servant. After that, you get promoted to being his close friend---for a servant does not know what his master's business is [John 15.15]. That's when the Lord reveals you "everything" he learned from the Father. "Everything"! That's so powerful!

Here's the Actual

Here's how it is---you can be a pastor or bishop and yet your Kingdom standing is a renting tenant. Or, you can be an ordinary church member and yet be a real servant of the Kingdom. Or, you may be a pastor with a small church but God sees you as a friend. Get the picture now?

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