Stewardship Resource

Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Sermon  Sermon
  • Author: Pr. Kurt Hoover is a pastor at St. John Lutheran Church.
  • Updated: 10/27/2008
  • Copyright: Pr. Kurt Hoover 2008

Matthew 21:33-46

The parable of the wicked tenants is used to address current economic times.


October 5, 2008
21st Sunday in Pentecost
Matthew 21:33-46

Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

A man was walking through the downtown Cedar Falls, he sees in a store window the most beautiful, the largest, most magnificent pearl he has ever seen. Instantly he knows he must have it. So he enters the store and an old guy enters from the door to the rear of the showroom. The man addresses the storekeeper, "I want that pearl. How much is it?"

The storekeeper says, "How much you got?"

"Well, I have $300 in my pocket."
"Good, I'll take that. What else you got?"

"Well, I have a Ford Expedition outside, low mileage, about 2 years old, paid off."
"Good, I'll take that too. What else you got?"

"Well, I have two CD's worth about $18,000."
"Good," says the storekeeper, "I'll take those too. What else you got?"

This goes on and on. The man gives away his house, his property, even his family. Until finally the storekeeper says, "Okay, here. The pearl is yours."

The man turns to leave the store. But as he is walking out the storekeeper stops him and says, "Hey, you know what? ... that family of yours? I don't need a family. So I'm going to give them back to you. But remember, they are mine now, not yours. You must take good care of them. And that house, well, I don't need a house so you can have that back too. Although it does belong to me, I just want you to care for it and fill it full of your children's friends talk to them about that pearl every once in while. And as for the CD's and the stocks and the Expedition and even this $300, you can have it all back too. But remember, it is all mine. Take it. Use it wisely. Care for it for me."

So the man left with everything he had when he walked into the store plus the great pearl. But there was a big difference. He walked into the store owning everything he had. He walked out owning nothing. Instead, everything he had before was now a gift.

He sent his son to the tenants to collect HIS produce...
It seems Jesus parable is a parable of ownership.  And as if it were not convicting enough there is verse 37, the most heart wrenching words that convict our every squandering of all that we have been given.  Words that convict every moment we have let our lives revolve around things rather then the people God puts in our lives. 

The owner of the vineyard sees the situation, God looks into our hearts knowing our greed and:

37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, "They will respect my son."

And the reason it hurts is because there still lives in each of us that same impulse that put Jesus on the cross, and in our day more then ever we are told by everything around us that we can own property, we can own the produce.  And we have grown so fond of, so used to the idea that when we hear verse 37 it hurts because we know that God's own Son has been sent and we know what we did with him.  We crucified him on a cross rather then give up the produce.  We didn't respect Jesus then and in some ways we respect him even less today.  These words should hurt if we take our relationship with God through Jesus Christ seriously in any way. 

37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, "They will respect my son."

In the end this is not a parable about produce, but a parable about putting God in His proper place.  Listening to God, respecting the son.  It only seems to be about money because that is what we often put in God's place.

It hurts because that disrespect is still alive and strong with in us and we are passing it on to our children.  But, the good news is that the Holy Spirit can't be killed with disrespect.  Jesus Christ rose from the grave in forgiveness.  Jesus Christ is alive in us through his mysterious Spirit.  And that Spirit is an amazing thing, in the midst of our materialistic and self motivated world it is still able to turn us around.  Jesus telling this parable in our midst has the same power now as it did back then.  The power to put produce and property, money and things in their proper place.


(B) The theme for confirmation two weeks ago was How to pass the plate.  We have been talking about why it is we do some of the things we do in worship this Fall.  The big idea from the lesson on passing the plate was this: Practicing faithful stewardship puts money in its proper place.

I asked the kids at the beginning of class last week what the big idea was and how they would describe it in their own words.  I want to sum up for you what your kids said.  "When we listen to that impulse inside of us to give things away, to give to others, then we have put money in it's proper place.  Our life no longer revolve around money and things, but around those to whom we can give, people and God.  I don't want my life to revolve around things, I want it revolve around God..."

Practicing faithful stewardship puts money in its proper place.

(C) Over the last two weeks the United States' financial system has been swirling with chaos. Fingers pointing everywhere -- at greed, corporate corruption, misguided economics. But what was notably absent from the rhetoric and accusations was someone willing to say, "We have created this problem ourselves. This mess is our own doing. And we are sorry."

I was reading one article analyzing who it was that would actually benefit from the finical package, Wall Street or Main Street.  I was impressed with the candor of this article It's a given that Wall Street and Main Street are inextricably linked, and that plenty of consumers binged on debt right alongside the banks currently on tap for a federal handout. But most interesting to me was how these authors ended the analysis...this is what they said.

Either way, one effect may be that Americans rededicate themselves to saving rather than spending beyond their means. (repeat)

As Pastor Rell said last week God can do amazing things through even unpredictable economic times and failed banks.

Our Hope revolves around people and God's Kingdom, not in money and the world economy. 

D) I want to offer a challenge to you this morning the same challenge Jesus offers through the parable of the wicked tenants.  And that challenge is to use this economic failure caused by human greed to put money in its proper place.  I challenge you to use the next 3 months of uncertainty or however long it takes to turn this problem around.  Respect his Son.  Listen to the wake up call.  Put money in its proper place and watch your life transform: Revolving less and less around things, and more and more centered on God and the people he gave you to take care of. (And when I say the people God has put in your life I am not talking about your family; I'm talking about the people God has put in your families life.)

I want to challenge you to live more simply. 

In the next 3 months I challenge you to try this experiment.  Increase your percentage of giving, try a tithe if you have never done that, and make due with what you have.  Through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas I challenge you to make do with what you have and practice the life of a steward.  Dare I say skip the Thanksgiving sales (Wow, I am getting daggers)  Use this Christmas as an opportunity to cut the amount of stuff your kids get (lower the spending cap) and tell them you are doing so.  Use it not only as an opportunity to teach about saving money in uncertain times, but as an opportunity to teach about stewardship.  If the economy tanks after Christmas you will be better prepared and will have your hope in the proper place.  If it doesn't you will have more to give.  Living simply and making do with what you have probably won't help the economy, it will involve sacrifice, but at the same time it will help you as family put money in its place. 

(1) This winter you are going to see a lot of this sweater.  My sweater collection took a pretty big hit this last winter.  I love those cashmere type sweaters that are really soft and I can wear them over a shirt and tie and under a suit coat.  About 3 years ago I got 6 or so at target right after Christmas 75% off.  Molly didn't like it, what are you going to do with all those sweaters?  Well, I got pretty good use out of them at $6 a piece until the end of last winter. The thing about that cashmere type of material is that it is hard to clean and I am not going to dry clean a sweater I paid $6 for.  All at the same time they started pilling and getting thin.  I have just about depleted my stock.  It was a rough winter for sweaters.  The seam in the neck on my favorite one came undone.  I washed a really nice wool one I got last Christmas in hot water.  And there are a whole bunch of others that are just getting way to old.  I legitimately need some new sweaters.  I hold a public office.  I am in front of people 3-4 days of every week.  I represent this church. 

But, I am going to listen to this wake up call.  This is a nice sweater.  Kind of boring but I am pretty sure I can wear it with just about any shirt and tie.  And it is a sweater, something designed to be put on and taken off depending on the temperature in the room.  I don't need a fancy assortment of sweaters.  I can live more simply.  We can live more simply.

37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, "They will respect my son."

In the end, this parable isn't talking about money or property or sweaters or things.  It is a parable about respecting the son.  Minister's of God you have heard this parable before.  You come here week after week fully expecting the Spirit to change you through the teaching of Jesus Christ; God alive and real today and everyday through his word and sacrament.  Because of Jesus you do respect the son, you have given up your produce, you are good stewards who have put money in it's proper place.  Your life doesn't revolve around things.  It revolves around God and the people he has put in your life.

Pr. Kurt Hoover
St. John Lutheran Church

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