Stewardship Not Ownership

Mark 12:1-12 “Then he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a pit for the wine press, and built a watchtower; then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce of the vineyard. But they seized him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again, he sent another slave to them; this one they beat over the head and insulted. Then he sent another, and that one they killed. And so, it was with many others; some they beat, and others they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally, he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So, they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?” When they realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowd. So, they left him and went away” (NRSV).
History has a way of being cyclical, it repeats itself, therefore, it is imperative that we learn from history, in order to not repeat the things in the past that were not effective as it pertained to the advancing of the kingdom of God. As we read the gospels, it is easy to just see them as stories, but they were actually a reconfiguring of ideas, thought patterns and ways of doing life as a spiritual being. If you aren’t careful, you can read the gospels and miss the messages that Jesus was telling them and that He is telling us.
In this parable, Jesus was letting us know that we were given a vineyard (a group of people, family, community), that we were invited to be a steward over a vineyard, but when it came to harvest time, He (the Father/owner) could take from His vineyard whatever He wanted. The challenge was then and is now, that many who have been called to be vineyard stewards, have actually become vineyard owners. In the process of stewardship, the subtle shift to ownership took place. This is understandable, for those who really want to give their best to anything need to have a sense of ownership in that thing. The challenge is, once you crossover into ownership, you now believe the vineyard is yours and the fruit of that vineyard belongs to you.
I believe we are in harvest season right now in the kingdom of God. I believe God is harvesting grapes (people) from His vineyard right now as we speak. I believe, what many see as a harvest of unbelievers coming is correct, but I think there is a harvest happening right now of believers. God, the owner of the vineyard (Psalm 24:1), is coming for His fruit, those who are mature, those who are ripe, those who are prepared to be gathered. Many leaders are wondering why so many people are leaving their churches, I believe this is why. It is harvest time! People are hearing the voice of God calling them out of the religious systems they have been in. Calling them to follow Jesus, not a church leader, calling them to discipleship with Jesus Himself. They are hearing the words of Jesus, “Follow Me!”
Just as in the parable, the workers crossed over to believing they were owners and therefore, could control the vineyard, control the temple and control those who were coming to it. Mark 12:12 says, “When they (the temple leaders) realized that He (Jesus) had told this parable against them…” The temple leaders of that time knew Jesus was speaking about them. This is how we know that leaders are the ones who have subtly shifted from being stewards of people and places to believing they are the owner; the one who decides how things are going to go; when, where and for how long. We say we want to be led by the spirit, but our services are completely scripted. God is harvesting His people out of these systems.
Luke 4:18-19 says, “The spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor, He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” Who are these people? I have heard many times they are unbelievers, outsiders, Gentiles if you will, but Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep in Israel” (Matthew 15:24). So, is it possible, that Jesus came to preach, release, recover the sight, set free and proclaim favor to those locked in a system that was not producing life? If we look at all the people Jesus encountered in the temple and in the land of Israel, we see the poor, the captives, the blind, and the oppressed are those He set free. I think Luke 4:18-19 is a salvation declaration for the nation that was locked in a religious system.
So, why was He calling them out of the system? What we see in scripture is that Jesus called them out, to reconfigure the way they think, so they could join a movement, that would advance the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. He moved them out of the temple and into a kingdom, a movement, that would be quoted in the Acts 17:6 to have turned the world upside down. I believe what we are seeing is not people who are weak, rebellious, or unspiritual leaving churches, but rather those who are hearing Jesus say, “Come, follow Me!”. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not like Jesus coming to reap His harvest anymore then church leaders like people leaving their church now. History is repeating itself, because we have yet to learn the lesson that it is about stewardship not ownership.

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