This week, I preached from Matthew 21:33-46, commonly known as the Parable of the Wicked Tenants. When I began my sermon prep for this week, I thought I had a pretty good handle on the direction of the text. I was fairly familiar with the parable, but I had never preached or taught on it before.
As I studied the passage, I realized something I had not noticed before. In this passage, Jesus is speaking directly to the religious leaders of the day. In essence, he is condemning them for not leading God’s people faithfully. (Actually, they end up pronouncing judgement on themselves!) Like the workers placed in charge of the vineyard, these leaders were meant to care for and nurture God’s people. They did not produce the fruit that God desired, and in the end the vineyard (the Kingdom of God) was taken away and given to people who would produce fruit.
It is quite a sobering parable, especially for someone like me who serves in a church vocationally. “Senior Pastor” is the modern parallel to the religious leaders that Jesus is confronting in this parable. I could see how the moral of the story applied to my own life, but what of that of the congregation? How does this parable apply to the lives of the people of First Church if Jesus was directly addressing religious leaders?
That’s when I came to my aforementioned realization. As Senior Pastor, I am called to work in the vineyard. But so are you. We are all called to ministry. God may not be calling you to lead a church. He may not ask you to stand in front of people and preach. But he is calling you to something.
The New Testament does not support a “pastor-centric” model of ministry, even though many of us, including pastors, have grown accustomed to it. Instead, the Apostle Paul says that God gave us
“the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11–13.
In other words, pastors are not supposed to be the only ones to do ministry. Pastors are supposed to equip people to do ministry. If I am the only one in my church serving, than I am not doing my job. My job is to help the people of First Church to do the work of ministry. When that happens, we will all be built up and unite in our common faith in Jesus Christ.
If you are a follower of Christ, this parable forces you to ask another question: what is my vineyard? Where is God calling me to serve? I don’t believe that God calls everyone to vocational ministry. He doesn’t call everyone to sell everything they own and move to Africa. But he does call everyone to live for him and strive to bring about his Kingdom in their particular context. How can you be faithful to God with your family, at work, in your community, and in the church?
People often ask, “What is God’s will for my life?” It’s one I asked myself many times over the years. I heard a pastor say once that God already provided the answer to that question for everyone. He desires that we love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He wants us to love our neighbor has ourselves. And he asks us to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ. You don’t have to move to Africa or go to seminary to do those things. You can live out God’s will for your life right where you are.
God has given each one of us our own piece of the vineyard. What are you going to do with yours?