Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46 (NRSVCE)
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces fruits of the kingdom.”
Jesus doesn’t pull any punches with this parable. He calls out the Pharisees and the priests for being like the tenants. They were charged with producing fruits of the Kingdom, and they instead spent their time collecting the fruits for themselves. When the servants were sent, they were killed. The landowner even sent his own son, and his son was killed by the tenants.
It’s not difficult to see what Jesus is getting at here. Jesus knows he will be put to death by these priests and Pharisees. They will kill the Son who was sent. For that and for their greed and pride for refusing to produce fruits for the Kingdom, they will have the Kingdom taken away. The stone that is rejected is Jesus. It is Jesus who has become the cornerstone. (Acts 4:11) The cornerstone lays the foundation. Everything relies on it. In order to be a part of the Kingdom, you must put your trust in the cornerstone. You must rely on Jesus Christ.
The question, then, is simple: Do we place our faith in Jesus Christ? Do we order our lives to the purpose of producing fruit for the Kingdom of God? I think we can all say that we can do better. The examples in this parable are extreme—I don’t think most of us have killed anyone for the sake of greed (or at least I hope not!). But how often do we withhold our gifts and our talents for the sake of ourselves? Just today, a man asked me if I had any spare change as I was walking into a 7-Eleven. I said “No” and kept walking. I lied, because the spare change I did have was so that I could buy myself a soda. For all I know, that man could have been in desperate need of some money, and helping him out could have brought him great joy. But because of my greed, he received nothing.
Now, does giving money to every person that asks count as “producing fruits for the Kingdom”? I don’t think so, and for those of us who live in major cities, we would all be penniless in a day and a half if we did that. But the reaction to withhold that money was automatic, almost instinctual. It wasn’t until reading today’s Gospel that I really started thinking about it. If that is my gut reaction to something as meaningless as a couple dollars, what am I withholding from God? What am I keeping for myself, out of greed, that could be used to produce fruits for the Kingdom?
God calls us to be His tenants, the people who sow the seeds of His Church in the world. When the Son comes again, what will we have for Him? Will we seek to beat Him and steal what is His and His Father’s? Or will we rejoice, crying “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”? (Psalm 118:23, 26)