Sunday, April 13, 2014

The End Times.1

"Once, there was a landowner who planted a vineyard, and on the grounds he installed a winepress. Around the vineyard he built a tall fence, erecting even a tower. Then he rented his vineyard to vine keepers, and voyaged to a distant country. When the time of the harvest approached, the landowner sent his servants to the vine keepers to collect his profits. But the vine keepers ambushed his servants, beat one, killed another, and drove the third off with stones. 
Again, the landowner sent servants to collect his profits. This time he sent a larger group than the first, but they met with a similar fate. 
Finally the landowner sent his only son, reasoning, "At least they will respect my only son." 
When the vine keepers saw the son approaching, however, they plotted foolishly among themselves: 'Here before us is the heir to the vineyard. If we kill him, 
his inheritance will be ours.'
So plotting, they bound the son, dragged him outside the vineyard walls, and took his life. 
I ask you: when, finally, the landowner of the vineyard returns, what will be the fate of the wicked vine keepers?"

An uncle once violently declared to me that Jesus was a socialist!  At least violence is what I read into the protruding neck veins and bright red face stressing his passionate opinion.

I'm sure he's not alone in that opinion.  But whether this parable is an apologetic for capitalism or socialism, I'm not sure. If you, like me, prefer capitalism to socialism, you'll find plenty to support the idea that property owners can and do provide valuable products, services and jobs to others by investing in the improvement of their property.  Socialists counter that this story teaches that profit motive drives people to exploit and harm the people who work for them.

Both economic systems attempt to define the equitable distribution of property. Property disputes are as old as the garden of Eden.

The moral then:

  • For the capitalist: don't hire thugs.  
  • For the socialist: don't let your children grow up to be Wall Street executives!
  • For Jesus: don't misinterpret my meaning!

To the King, Who's Kingdom is not of this World, the challenge of conveying His meaning through the shadowy figures of this world, continues, even today, to be daunting.  The "key", I am of the opinion, to unlocking the meaning of this story is the word inheritance
image from

Inheritance, in this world, is the legal-willful portioning of property.  Just the other day I met a business owner perplexed that his brother/estate executor won't share information with him about the family trust.  He's suspicious that his fifteen years of running the family business may be unceremoniously taken from him when mom passes.

Those suspicions, given the history of mankind, are certainly justified.  For the sharing of property, we know in our hearts, is the lessening of the whole.  We intrinsically feel the need for "fairness" in the distribution.

The Kingdom of God, however, is good news!  For its values and practices are in stark contrast to those of this world system.  Nothing illustrates that more than the idea of inheritance.  Drink in the words of Dante via MacDonald:

"To have a share in any earthly inheritance, is to diminish the share of the other inheritors. In the inheritance of the saints, that which each has, goes to increase the possession of the rest. Hear what Dante puts in the mouth of his guide, as they pass through Purgatory:
Because you point and fix your longing eyes
On things where sharing lessens every share,
The human bellows heave with envious sighs.
But if the loftiest love that dwelleth there
Up to the heaven of heavens your longing turn,
Then from your heart will pass this fearing care:
The oftener there the word our they discern,
The more of good doth everyone possess,
The more of love doth in that cloister burn.

Dante desires to know how it can be that a distributed good should make the receivers the richer the more of them there are; and Virgil answers-
Because thy mind doth stick
To earthly things, and on them only brood,
From the true light thou dost but darkness pick.
That same ineffable and infinite Good,
Which dwells up there, to Love doth run as fleet
As sunrays to bright things, for sisterhood.
It gives itself proportionate to the heat:
So that, wherever Love doth spread its reign,
The growing wealth of God makes that its seat.
And the more people that up thither strain,
The more there are to love, the more they love,
And like a mirror each doth give and gain."
The true share, in the heavenly kingdom throughout, is not what you have to keep, but what you have to give away." 
From The Inheritance by George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons III