Summary: Jesus speaks against those whose greed causes them to exploit the land and the people to their advantage and for their profit. We are called to be stewards and manage the "vineyards" that we have been given. They are not ours, they are God's.
Mark 12:1-12 “Entangled With Greed”
We continue our journey with Jesus through Holy Week—the last week of his life on earth. Last Sunday we walked with him on Monday, which is the day after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. On Monday Jesus passed by a fig tree, on his way to Jerusalem, and cursed it because of its fruitlessness. He then entered the temple and over threw the tables of the money changers and those who sold sacrificial animals. By his words against the fig tree and his actions in the temple, Jesus passed judgment upon the temple and its leadership because when they had associated with Rome—it’s physical force and political power--they had turned from justice to injustice.
On Tuesday, Jesus returns to Jerusalem. He and the disciples pass by the fig tree that Jesus cursed, on their way to the city. Jesus returns to the temple and confronts the chief priests and scribes again. Using a parable about wicked tenants Jesus denounces the greed of the Jewish religious leaders.
Jesus may have shown the chief priests and scribes this video clip, if he had been talking with them today. It may have crossed Jesus’ mind that these men would have agreed with the thoughts of this shallow Christian.
THE OPPRESSION OF GREED
It is important to note that Jesus was not and is not against wealth. True, he did say that it is more difficult for the rich to enter heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle—but it isn’t impossible. Paul also wrote that it is the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil, and not money itself.
What Jesus did object to was the religious leaders becoming wealthy by burdening the people. They did this in a number of ways. The chief priests and scribes controlled the religious market of the temple.
• The money changers charged exorbitant exchange rates to change Roman money into temple money for offerings.
• The scales of the merchants were weighted in their favor.
• Perfectly good animals were judged unworthy of sacrifice in order that a greater profit could be made selling a replacement sacrifice.
• Priest charged for religious services. Not only did you have to offer a sacrifice, but you had to pay the priest in order to do it.
REFUSING TO SHARE
The parable that Jesus tells is about a landowner, who plants a vineyard, fenced it, prepared it and even defended it. The landowner did all of the hard work, and then he gave it to the tenants to tend and harvest. The landowner expected that he would receive a portion of the proceeds from the harvest.
The tenants quickly forgot that the vineyard was a gift. They did not purchase it, nor did they do any of the hard work to prepare it to produce a harvest. Forgetting that the vineyard was a gift, the tenants began to see it as the product of their work—the profit from which they alone deserved.
The tenants refused to share the harvest profits with the landowner. Their self-centered perspective fostered greed. They wanted all of the profits and they didn’t want to share their wealth with anyone.
The priests and the scribes were in to accumulating and did not give much thought to sharing. They overlooked the needs of the people they had been called to serve. In fact they added to the needs of the people. Their wealth and comfort was at the expense of others.
It is easy to fall into the snare of self-centeredness and greed. We begin to believe that we have greater needs than anyone else, or we are more deserving than anyone else. Greed is not a “no one gets hurt” sin. Greed harms other people.
REFUSING TO REPENT
The landowner sent many servants to collect his portion of the harvest. The wicked tenants beat them, and sent them away empty handed. Over and over again, the landowner tried to offer the tenants the opportunity to repent. The wicked tenants refused to repent.
The Lord sent many prophets to the leaders and the people of Israel. The prophets call the people to repentance and a restored relationship with God. The leaders and the people refused the prophets call to repentance.
We are not perfect people. Martin Luther said that we were “at the same time sinners and saints.” We will be affected by greed, because it is part of our human nature. We have the invitation and the opportunity, though, to confess our sin, turn from our greed, and receive God’s forgiveness.
Jesus asked the chief priests what they thought the landowner would do when he returned. It was the common consensus that he would destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.