Last time I talked about my vineyard.
I traced a personal response to Jesus’ story about a vineyard owner. It’s the way Americans tend to view most lessons, because we’re an individual-oriented culture.
As I learn more about Jesus, I’m not sure it’s the best perspective. He spoke frequently in the context of community. The parable begins, “For the kingdom of heaven is like…”
A kingdom is about something bigger than me and my vineyard. It’s that, but it’s also US and OUR vineyard.
Oh, boy – that’s not gonna go well. In America words like that evoke the dreaded spectre of “socialism.” But if we follow Jesus, we’ll have to do some difficult mental gymnastics to escape the simple truth stated by Tim Keller.
“Talking about oppression, justice, etc. doesn’t make one a Marxist. It makes one a student of the Bible.”
The Prophet Isaiah said, “Learn to do right; seek justice.” He addressed a rebellious nation, the community of God’s people.
The vineyard owner paid all his workers a living wage. Those who worked all day and those who worked an hour. He didn’t do it because they earned it, but because simply because it was right.
Grace and justice – God’s justice – seem outrageous. They violate common sense. They’re not fair.
The last will be first, and the first will be last? How do I get ahead with that kind of attitude? It’s anti-common sense, anti-competition, anti-everything we’ve been taught.
Jesus, taken seriously, looks to America like a culture-busting wacko.
It’s hard. Takes guts to let go of old perceptions and biases.
So you and I can pretend Jesus wasn’t who He was and didn’t say what He said. We can twist ourselves into pretzels to avoid change, trying to make scripture say what we so desperately want it to say. We can make-believe a kingdom in America’s image, but it won’t alter Jesus’ simple truth. To borrow a current phrase:
It is what it is.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like…”