Greed Never Produces Good Fruit

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

What a great story. A man had resources, land, lots of fertile land and he put a vineyard on it. Following General Assembly a few months ago in San Jose, California, my wife, Melissa, and I visited vineyards in Napa valley. Beautiful vineyards, great wine. Wonderful. Well, this man in Jesus’ parable has a similar goal as Napa valley’s landowners. He wanted to grow grapes. So he hired workers to complete the task. You reap what you sow, right? So the landowner expected a great harvest at harvest time. Not before harvest time! No. The grapes would be ready when they were ready and the workers, the servants in the parable, cultivated and tended the vineyard so that when the time was right, the fruit of their labors, the return on the landowner’s investment in that land would come forth! Well, the vines were bursting with life and the presses were working overtime, but the workers said to themselves:

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

Wow! Instead of the grapes being pressed into useful and life-giving wine produced by the workers in COMMUNION with the landowner, the workers cared only about themselves and in GREED, too not only the wine, but killed the very son of the landowner!

When we are not in communion, when we are not in a right relationship with one another, we care only about ourselves, our needs, our wants, our desires, and in this state of greed, want what is not ours to have. The vineyard belonged to the owner, and to the owner’s son. Like some executives on Wall Street, they took what was not theirs and they cared only for themselves. The results were devastating.

The Harvard Business School established a database about the top 900 executives and published a book entitled In Their Time: The Greatest Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century by professors Mayo and Nohria.

They wrote about three leadership types in business, government, and the church, as well. Mold-makers, Mold-breakers, and Mold-takers. Mayo and Nohria offered an incredible insight when they considered the question: Was there one ingredient these great leaders had in common? Yes, they concluded, and here it is:

The ability to read the forces that shape the times in which they live and seize on the resulting opportunities. They called this ability Contextual Intelligence. Not being selfish about their own needs and viewpoints, but taking the time to see the community, the world, through the eyes of others is the key to healthier living. Contextual Intelligence refers to thoughtfully understanding the real world right now, and instead of taking from it, giving to it in Jesus’ name.

The church can choose to be less concerned about the church itself, and instead, invest its more energy in the real-life experiences of people outside our churches. Congregational transformation occurs when a congregation takes Communion with God so seriously that it considers its Context just as seriously, too.

What the vineyard workers did not understand was that if they were in Communion with the vineyard owner, they would have received great blessings. But greed led them to take what was not theirs and in the end, they received nothing, loosing their very lives.

The missional theme of our presbytery is Together Transforming Lives, Congregations, Communities, and World.

How we understand our context is critically important, not only for business leaders, city officials, individual congregations, but for the whole church and all its leaders. Greed never produces good fruit.