Summary: Jesus compares his Father to a Landlord in Luke 20, and in this study we learn that the Lord is a perfectly patient Landlord, as well as a thoroughly just Landlord.
I don’t know what Gerry Niebler would have done had he knocked on our apartment door one day, to give us a friendly reminder that we were 3 months behind in our rent, and I, after hearing that news, hacked up a huge amount of phlegm and spit in his face, and yelled, “get out of here, Gerry!” I’m not quite sure how Mr. Niebler would have reacted, but I think I can guess. He probably would have started legal proceedings to get us evicted, not because I spit in his face (though that didn’t help), but because I didn’t give him what I owed him. And he definitely wouldn’t be knocking on my door a month later with another “friendly” reminder…he would have learned his lesson.
Look at the unbelievable patience of our Lord, the Landlord! After his first servant is roughed up: “He sent another servant, but that one they beat and treated shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.” No way would this ever happen in real life, that an owner show that much tolerance to treacherous tenants. And that’s exactly the point that Jesus is trying to make in this parable. The Lord has an incredible amount of patience for sinners, far more than sinners deserve.
But with each successive servant sent, the tenants become more and more hardened in their hatred. That progressive malice is illustrated with the three servants. If I ask you, “what time is it?” and you tell me, and I say, “what?” and you tell me again, and I say, “what did you say?” that third answer of yours is going to have a bite to it. In the parable, the owner shows great patience in sending servant after servant, but this only confirmed the tenants in their wickedness. They got more and more annoyed, and progressively more violent as servant after servant was sent to them.
These servants represent the prophets who were sent to Israel over the centuries. And God’s people, for the most part, ignored them, battled with them, and killed them. You might recall how Moses’s authority was constantly being challenged as he led the Israelites for 40 years through the desert. It got so bad for another prophet named Elijah that he had to run away from the Land of Israel. Tradition has it that the prophet Isaiah was killed by being sawed in two. Jeremiah didn’t get treated much better. He was an old man in exile in Egypt when he is rumored to have been stoned to death. The writer to the Hebrews sums up how God’s prophets, these servants that the landlord sent to the tenants, were treated, “others were tortured…some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned, they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”
How do you treat the Landlord when he comes looking to collect fruit from you? The basic sin of the tenants was that they refused to give God his fruits, and we do the same thing. God has a right to expect the best from us. Like the tenants, we don’t really own anything, not our jobs, not our houses, not even our bodies. We don’t even own our time. All these things God our Landlord rents out to us for one primary purpose: to use to HIS glory, HIS benefit. But like those self-seeking tenants, we oftentimes act as though this is our stuff, we own it, “and Lord, I’ll get you your share when I’m good and ready.” If you ever had a landlord here on earth, you know you couldn’t get away with paying him only a fraction of what you owe him. So why do we act as though we can skimp on our Lord and expect him to be fine with it? We cheat God when he asks us for our time, as we tell him we’re too busy right now, we don’t have time to pray, to read the Word, to serve other people. We cheat our Lord when we tell him that the talents that he’s given us aren’t the ones that really build up the church...that job is best left to others more skilled in that area. We cheat the Landlord when we bring meager portions of our income to him, and promptly go home after church to read the Sunday paper advertisements and find all the cool things we can spend our money on.