A few years ago I inherited about fifty acres that had been part of my parents’ family farm.
The property featured a nice mix of open meadows and wooded areas. As a child and teenager, I had roamed that land almost daily—tending my dad’s cows, hunting, fishing, and just exploring nature with my beagle dog. When I inherited the property, the only structure left on the place was a ramshackle old house falling in on itself.
Still, I had something of a problem: I lived in another state. The drive from my home to the new piece of property took about six hours one way. I soon realized that tending and keeping watch over my property wouldn’t be easy. It required a two-day commitment of time whenever I needed just to check on fences, gates, and trails.
Enter my brother-in-law and sister into my dilemma. They owned an adjoining piece of land, and they raised cattle—as my dad had done. They offered to rent my place so that they could cut hay off the meadows in the summertime and have additional pastures for their cattle to graze during the fall and winter. Besides getting a rent check each year, I received great peace of mind from knowing that my renters not only were trustworthy but also were as concerned about the upkeep of my property as I was.
Jesus once told a parable about the very opposite type of situation—having bad renters.
In Jesus’ story, the bad renters, or tenants, referred to the Jewish religious leaders of His day. These men had been given positions of great spiritual privilege and responsibility in God’s kingdom. But like bad renters, they appeared to care nothing about God or His kingdom. They didn’t want to do His work or honor Him—pay the rent, so to speak—by leading the people to know and worship Him. They were in danger of being rejected and judged by the Landowner (God). The last straw came when the evil tenants killed the Landowner’s Son (Christ). Jesus warned that if the religious leaders continued on the path they were on, they would seal their own judgment. God would “completely destroy those terrible men … and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his fruit at the harvest” (Matt 21:41).
The truth then is the same truth today: God is looking for good renters to join in His kingdom work. Bad renters should beware of sealing their everlasting judgment by rejecting Christ.
Questions for further thought: In your view, how is the Christian life like and unlike being a renter? What does it mean to you to be a “good renter” in God’s kingdom?
David Briscoe is a content editor at Lifeway for Explore the Bible resources.