We all have a certain degree of selfishness. We start out life by screaming “Mine!” if anybody tries to take our toys. Even as adults, we are constantly reminded by the commercial, “It’s my money and I need it now!”

But Jesus told a parable that reminds us that everything we have belongs to God and its dangerous to be selfish. In this parable, the man represents God; the vineyard, Israel; the husbandmen, Jewish leaders..

Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place.  At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard.  But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully.  He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’  So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” (Mark 12:1-9)

This was a story Jesus wanted His hearers to understand what they were doing to God. God blessed Israel. But as God sent prophets and messengers to the people, they refused to listen and even killed some. Finally, God sent His Son and they killed Him.

Though this was historically a message to the nation of Israel, there are things we can learn that will help us with our own selfishness.

What can we learn about God?

  1. The generosity of God. God has been so good to all of us. For most, we can look at our family, our job, our country, our health, and especially our salvation and recognize that we have way more than we deserve. Life is good! Eternity is better!
  2. The trust of God. Though all we have ultimately belongs to God, He has trusted us to take care of it. Our lifelong responsibility is to care for those things that God has trusted us to take care of. If He didn’t think we could do it, He wouldn’t have let us have it.
  3. The patience of God. Our problem is we treat our possessions as if they belonged to God. They don’t. He’s just letting us use them. But many times He requires something from us – possibly our time, our treasure, or our talent. Too often we say ‘NO!’ and keep it all to ourself. We refuse to listen but God continues to plead with us through people, circumstances, and our own conscience to give Him what He requires. He is very patient with us. Martin Luther once said, “If I were God and the world had treated me as it treated Him, I would kick the wretched thing to pieces.” Aren’t you glad God is God.
  1. The severity of God. In sending His Son, there was nothing more God could do! Jesus was God’s ultimatum! In consequence, nothing remains when Christ is refused! Hell is a deserving place for those who refuse the love of God through Christ. Please turn to Him now, before it is too late.
  1. The ultimate triumph of God. Sometimes it looks like evil is winning. And maybe in some circumstances it is. But God will get the ultimate victory. Make sure you are on the winning side.

What can we learn about Jesus?

  1. Jesus regarded Himself not as a servant, but as a Son. To refuse servants (prophets) was bad for Israel. But when they refused and killed the Son (Jesus) that was tragic. You might be able to say ‘No’ to a preacher, your parents, or another person in authority, but don’t say ‘No’ to Jesus. He is God’s Son. Give Him whatever He wants.
  2. Jesus knew He would die. Jesus came to earth to die for the world. He knew that. As much as He pleaded for people to hear God through Him, He knew His message would be rejected. Yet, it was His death that brought eternal victory to all who would believe and receive Him.
  3. Jesus was sure of His ultimate victory. He knew that His death would not be the end. After the rejection would be the glory forever.

What can we learn about people?

  1. People think they can act against God and get away with it. Just because God doesn’t punish immediately doesn’t mean He’s oblivious to our rejection. God is always watching us. A future day of reckoning is coming. Live today like you will have wished you had lived when you finally standing in front of God.
  2. If a person refuses privilege and responsibility, they pass to someone else. You might say no to God, but He will get His will accomplished. You will just miss the blessing. I have never given something up for God that He has not replaced it with something better. And even if I can’t recognize His goodness, He will make sure all accounts are settled in Heaven.

For the Christian, failure to follow Christ leads to loss of spiritual gifts and a sense of His presence and power. God may give our responsibilities to others who will use them appropriately. To the unsaved, putting God off leads to spiritual deafness or hardening. Soon they can’t hear God’s Word at all.

You can read my other articles about selfishness: The Day Jesus Got Mad, Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, 7 Truths about Love.