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The Parable of the Tenants Life Lessons

The Parable of the Bad Tenants is included in three Gospels in the Bible; Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It can be found specifically in Matthew 21:33-44 NIV, Mark 12:1-12 NIV, and Luke 20:9-19 NIV. You can also jump straight to it HERE.

The Parable of the Tenants is a parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard and is also known as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants and the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (farmers).

Parable of the Tenants Spiritual Lessons - Parable of the Wicked Tenants and Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen

The Parable of the Bad Tenants Summary

The summary of the Parable of the Tenants is that a landowner planted a vineyard and rented it to tenants when he left town. After the harvest, the landowner sent servants to collect fruit, but the tenants mistreated and abused or killed everyone the landowner sent, including his son.  

Jesus went on to further explain that when the landowner went back to the vineyard, he would kill those tenants and give the vineyards to others.

The Parable of the Tenants Moral Lesson

When Jesus told this parable, He was speaking to the Jewish people who were refusing to heed His teaching. They were plotting to kill Him because of His perceived rebellion against them. But the moral lesson of the Parable of the Tenants is as much for us today as it was to the Jewish people at the time. 

That moral lesson is if we live our lives in sinful ways we will forfeit all the gifts God offers. We are stewards of God’s Kingdom on earth. Everything we have is through God’s abundant love. He has sent us prophets, ministers, fellow Christians, and Christ Himself to get us to turn to Him as His children. If we choose to reject God, His Son, and everything He stands for, we will lose out on His promise of eternal glory because that gift is reserved for those who love and follow Him.

The Parable of the Tenants Reflection

1. We are God’s Tenants in His Kingdom

God offers us His amazing vineyard that comes with abundant blessings, but He does expect us to bear fruit and give Him His rightful share. He doesn’t force this relationship on us, but offers it freely. The choice is ours. We can live giving glory and honor to God – thus bearing fruit with our lives, or forfeit His everlasting Kingdom. He wants us to choose Him (it’s His will), but He won’t force us. When we don’t choose God, we choose death.

2. Don’t Kill the Son

People don’t like tough messages. It’s hard to imagine an angry God who would condemn His people. Sometimes when we don’t like the message, we kill the messenger, like the tenants did. But killing the messenger doesn’t change the message!

The Jews were angry with Jesus because they didn’t like Him criticizing their hypocritical lifestyle. Today, many people still don’t like Jesus’s message. They want salvation without any responsibilities. Maybe they expect mercy without turning from sinful ways. Or they think of God as a genie in a bottle that grants their wishes, with no consideration of God’s will. 

Whatever we might think of God’s expectations, it doesn’t change His actual expectations! Jesus came to make a way for our salvation in a sinful world. If we get angry at Him because we don’t like His message, it doesn’t change the message. If we ‘kill’ Jesus by turning our back on Him, it doesn’t change His message. 

Instead, when we don’t like Jesus’s message, the best solution is to turn to Him with your whole heart to explore why you’re in disagreement. Ask Him and He will help you make sense of His message.

3. We are Called to Bear Fruit

God gives each of us different physical and spiritual gifts, as he gave the tenants fertile land in His vineyard. What we do with those gifts is our choice, but God expects us to do something worthwhile with them – something that honors Him or expands His Kingdom.

How are you bearing fruit? What kind of fruit you should you be bearing?

We’re not all called to be preachers and pastors. We don’t all have to become missionaries or to live among the poor. God just wills us to do His work, in whichever way we choose to honor and glorify Him.

Maybe you help your elderly neighbor with snow removal or maybe you volunteer at a local prison ministry. Perhaps you buy a meal for a homeless person or pray for strangers in need.

There are endless ways of bearing fruit for God. If He doesn’t give you a clear path to take, start by doing something that satisfies His command to Love One Another and He will continue to lead you from there.

4. There is a Consequence

Whenever we talk about people going to hell, it brings up an idea of an angry and vengeful God that makes people uncomfortable. Remember the point above about not killing the messenger because the message remains the same anyway? Well, here we go again!

We can’t ignore the ending of the parable in which Jesus says that when the vineyard owner finally returns, He will kill the current tenants and give the vineyard to others.

It’s uncomfortable to think that there’s a really bad consequence for saying “NO” to God. We need to remember that His consequences are always fair. They always come with plenty of opportunities to change our ways. God is very patient and slow to anger. He doesn’t rush to condemn us. But He will when we continually refuse Him. The choice is ours. When we turn our back on God, we are choosing the consequence.

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Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard Meaning

What does the Parable of the Tenants mean? There’s a lot of symbolism in this parable! As we break down the meaning of each person in the parable, the message will become clear. So, let’s walk through the Parable of the Tenants meaning…

Who does the owner of the vineyard represent in the Parable of the Tenants?

The owner of the vineyard represents God, our Heavenly Father.

What does the vineyard represent in the Parable of the Tenants?

The vineyard represents God’s Kingdom and God’s blessings – His beautiful, fruitful, and generous gift to humankind. His abundant mercy and grace is offered freely for us to nurture and bring forth into our everyday lives to expand the Kindgom.

Who do the tenants represent in the Parable of the Tenants?

At the time Jesus spoke the parable, the tenants represented the Jewish people. They were God’s chosen people. But they refused to listen as Jesus explained His fulfillment of the prophets and they ultimately killed Jesus in spite of God sending Him to save them.

Today, the tenants represent those who enjoy the blessings of God yet refuse to bear fruit for Him. They continue to reject Jesus and turn their backs on God. Even those who understand the dire consequences still refuse to turn to God and, instead, keep living according to the sinful ways of the world, without remorse.

Who does the son represent in the Parable of the Tenants?

The son represents God’s Son, Jesus Christ, the One who God sent into the world to get His people’s attention. But, instead, they killed Him.

Who do the servants represent in the Parable of the Tenants?

At the time Jesus spoke the parable, the servants would have represented the prophets, all of whom God had sent in order to make His Word and Will understood by the people over many generations. As many prophets had been beaten to death and tortured due to the unpopularity of their message, so were the servants in the parable.

As the parable speaks to us today, we also have servants who have been sent to give us God’s message. In addition to the prophets, we have the complete Old and New Testaments of the Bible, of whom every author who conveyed God’s Word represents a servant to us. Additionally, pastors, ministers, preachers, and fellow Christians are all servants, sent to us from God to encourage us to accept God’s offer to bear Him fruit with our lives.

Commentary of the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen

Find the Parable of the Tenants (Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen) Commentary at Bible Study Tools.com. This link will lead you to the free Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, but you can find other Biblical commentaries HERE. They include free and paid versions. I have referred to Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary for this post.

This post may contain affiliate links. This is my full disclosure.

Parable of the Tenants, taken from Luke 20:9-19 NIV

The Parable of the Tenants – the version listed below is taken from the Book of Luke. Matthew’s version leaves it as a question as to what the landowner would do when he returns. Mark and Luke’s versions state what the landowner would do.

The Parable of the Tenants

9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’

14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

More Parables!

Do you love the parables as much as I do? You may enjoy reading life lessons on these others (listed below), these activities for adults and children, or this list of Parables and Meanings. More parable lessons are underway. See them all HERE!

Do you love journaling? Does writing down your personal reflections help you process your thoughts more fully? Perhaps these Christian writing journals will be helpful as you reflect on the life lessons of the parables.

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