Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 65; 147:1-11, Numbers 22:41-23:12, Romans 7:13-25, Matthew 21:33-46
One tenet of Calvinism is the belief that God has predetermined who will be “elected” (believers saved by grace) and who will not. Though there are varying schools of thought on the interaction of belief and election, and people ask how they can know if they are elected, the prevailing presumption seems to be that belief is evidence you have been elected. But really you only know that you believe at this moment. People and circumstances constantly change.
In the Parable of the Husbandmen, a landowner (God) plants a vineyard (the nation of Israel), leases it to some tenants (the leaders of Israel), and leaves the country. While he is away, he sends servants (the prophets of old) to claim the produce, but the tenants beat, kill, and stone them. Finally the landowner sends his son (Jesus) but the servants kill him, too.
It seems clear the tenants believed they could establish themselves as the rightful occupants, beneficiaries, and heirs of the vineyard. They had been hand-picked by the landowner, but turned out to be untrustworthy. Unsurprisingly, the religious leaders in Jesus’s audience were not fans of this story. Without debating the merits of Calvinism, can we see how this parable illustrates the dangers of taking one’s own righteousness for granted?
As with many things in Christianity, humility in this area serves us well. Yes, believers should rejoice in our salvation. But we should not assume that automatically makes us good caretakers of the faith. It is never our own convictions and strengths that save us, but the grace of God. We might think of the tenants as evil, but as Rebecca Solnit (paraphrasing Mary McCarthy) says: “we are all the heroes of our own stories.” In other words, without being open to outside perspectives, we aren’t the best judges of our own righteousness; we need to remain open to the idea we could become the bad tenants. The fruits of the spirit are not ours to horde, but to return to God when called to do so. Salvation is not a one-time deal, but something we accept every day.
Comfort: God desires your salvation.
Challenge: Though our salvation is a cause for joy, our faith must remain humble.
Prayer: God of Salvation, teach me to serve you and not my own interests. Amen.
Discussion: How do you feel about predestination?
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