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Summary: Parables for Seekers, Pt. 8

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PAY UP OR PACK UP (MATTHEW 21:32-46)

US News and World Report (3/31/97) polled 1,000 people several years ago on who they thought were people “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to go to heaven. The person most likely to go to heaven was none other than Mother Teresa, who garnered 79% of the votes. The next four persons in popular standing were curious choices - Oprah Winfrey at 66%, Michael Jordan at 65%, Colin Powell at 61% and Princess Diana at 60%.

The next three, who barely made 50%, among the people’s choice were Al Gore and Hillary Clinton – both at 55%, and Bill Clinton at 52%.

Two persons barely failed the grade - Pat Robertson at 47%, and Newt Gingrich at 40%.

The two people respondents considered most unlikely to go to heaven were Dennis Rodman at 28%, and O.J. Simpson at 19%.

What was more startling was how the respondents rated their chances of going to heaven. They fancied their chances of going to heaven the highest - at 87%, much higher than Mother Teresa’s humbling 75-percent vote (Douglas Stanglin, “Oprah: A Heavenly Body?” U.S. News & World Report 3/31/97).

Most people who think they have a blank check to heaven are in need of a reality check.

Repentant tax collectors and prostitutes – the most undeserving of a place in heaven, according to most people - had a special place in Jesus’ heart. The more they understood their rotten condition, the more they appreciate God’s amazing grace to them. A large crowd of tax collectors and sinners sat, ate and interacted with Jesus and his disciples (Luke 5:29, Matt 9:10, Mark 2:15). One of his disciples was still known to others as Matthew the tax collector (Matt 10:3), so Jesus was affectionately and sarcastically labeled as a friend of tax collectors and sinners (Matt 11:19). Matthew’s text was unique from other gospels, because Matthew the tax collector was the only writer who attested to the inclusion of believing prostitutes, probably the worst kind of sinners in people’s mind, in God’s kingdom.

Why is God disdainful of the proud and merciful to the humble? What options has He given the self-righteous and the sinful? What does God expect people to respond to the gift of salvation He freely offered to them?

God Will Hold People to Their Agreement

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. 33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. (Matt 21:32-33)

A good, positive rental experience can only be enjoyed given the right landlord and the right tenant or tenants.

I have moved quite often the first half of the 90s before I eventually bought a house. My first Southern California landlord charged us – 3 housemates - $1,000 for a condominium, another $1,000 for security deposit and $120 for cleaning fee. The contract also stipulated that $30 shall be added to the rental if not made 10 days after rental was due, which was very lenient. The landlord made us send the check to her resident. I moved out 7 months later after finding someone willing to take my place, room and share in the condominium. I could not stand one of the housemates, a smoker.

After that unhealthy environment and unpleasant experience, I decided to rent a two-room apartment and subleased a room to a tenant, so that I can choose my housemate. The rental was $800 total, security deposit was $200, cleaning fee was not required – which was too good to be true, and late fee was $15 three days after rental was due. That did not work out too, because the landlord had a key to the apartment. I suspect that he had no housing of his own and stayed overnight on different nights at his rental properties, which he had rented from other owners at a lower price and rented it out to tenants at a higher price. He often entered my apartment and crashed in the living room. Sometimes he would come in the morning, made and ate his breakfast there. Later he brought his girlfriend and her toddler. One morning I found the woman dressed in her bikinis frying bacon in a pan! At the end of the year’s contract, I moved out.

After that mess, I shared an apartment with a friend in a modest 20-unit apartment complex, with a manager on site in one of the units and a handyman in the owner’s employment. The rental was $620, late rent charge was $10 – date not specified, security deposit was $200, cleaning deposit was $190 and key was $10. It was the ideal situation for me and it lasted three and a half years until I finally owned my own house. The landlord refunded every cent to me when I left, including the cleaning fee.

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