This morning’s Exercise focused on a passage from the Gospel according to Mark. In chapter 12, the first few verses, a story is recorded about a man who planted a vineyard. He planted the vines, built a wine press and built a wall around it. He then leased it to some folks to tend the vines and, in time, bring in the harvest. At the time of the harvest, so the story goes, the man sent someone to collect his share of the fruit. The tenants beat him and sent him away empty handed. This process was repeated several times. Some servants were beaten, others killed. Finally, the man sent his son to collect. For some reason, he thought that the tenants would respect his son. The tenants took the son outside of the vineyard and killed him. Apparently, they thought this would allow them to lay claim to the vineyard. The story ends with the threat of the man coming himself and destroying the tenants.
Fun story, eh, kids? Give me what’s mine or, in the words of Achmed the Dead Terrorist, “I keel you!” But, that’s not the point of the story. In it, the man prepared the vineyard with everything necessary for a successful operation at his own expense. The plants, buildings, wall and winepress were all put in place. Workers were secured to tend to his investment. Arrangements were agreed to in which at the harvest the man would receive a share. This was his Return On Investment. The tenants, however, either felt entitled to the whole or simply were not mindful of the man’s claim. Personally, I think that they felt that since they had done all of the labor they were entitled to the entire harvest. I think that they felt secure within the walls that the man had built. And, I speculate that they did not expect the man to do anything about it. They were arrogant and self-seeking. There was apparently no concern for possible consequences to their actions.
The story ends with a threat. It doesn’t finish with the destruction of the tenants, only the statement that the man would be within his rights to come and take what was his by force. Now, like any parable, eventually comparisons to life events break down. And, I don’t want to stretch this into something it was not intended for. A couple of things that I did notice, though…
- The man was mindful of what was necessary to run a successful business. He prepared everything that was necessary to turn a profit and provide for himself, his family and the tenants.
- He graciously provided for the tenants’ livelihood by giving them free reign to care for the vineyard.
- He exhibited unusual patience by sending, and continuing to send people to collect his share.
- Ultimately, he sent his own son, his heir, to collect payment.
I think that if I had to highlight any one point of the story it would be gratitude. The man had done everything in his power to see to the well-being of the tenants. They had no investment in the vineyard. It was pretty much handed to them. The man did not tell them how to care for it…he was not a micro-manager. In the end, he simply wanted the tenants to show respect and gratitude by providing his share. By their actions the tenants revealed greed, disrespect and ingratitude. They considered the vineyard and its produce theirs and they were not about to share it.
I know that I don’t show gratitude for much of what I’ve been given. I have a life, people, a place and a mind that thinks. And, most of the time I consider all of this mine. I forget, or am not mindful, of the Source from which these things come. Honestly, I don’t see that changing a great deal. Yeah, this story has reminded me that gratitude should be the natural response to such graciousness. But, I forget sometimes. I don’t think that I’m alone in this. That’s why I’m sharing it. Perhaps, we all need a reminder to be thankful from time to time.