This Land is Whose Land?

How many times have we read Christ’s parable of the vineyard and assumed its application is long in the past? It’s easy to interpret as the history of the Jews, who were given the Abrahamic Covenant but then failed in their stewardship by rejecting the prophets and ultimately killing the Master’s Son.

But recently, reading Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy, I saw the parable in a whole new light. Tolstoy says:

“The husbandmen imagined that the vineyard in which they were sent to work for their master was their own, and all that was in it was made for them, and that their business was to enjoy life in this vineyard—forgetting the master and killing all those who reminded them of his existence.

“Are we not doing the same . . . when we imagine ourselves to be masters of our lives and that life is given us for enjoyment? For evidently this is absurd. We were sent here by someone’s will and for some purpose, and we have concluded that we live only for our own enjoyment. And of course things go ill with us, as they do with laborers when they do not fulfill their master’s orders.”

Peculiar to America is the notion that God established this nation and its government, but, like the husbandmen in the parable, we, the stewards of the vineyard, have tried to expropriate for ourselves what is His. I was told the other day that if I chose to refuse to fight for my country on grounds of my Christian beliefs, it would be “immoral.” ‘Splain me that, Lucy. This land is whose land? God created America for His purposes, not vice versa.

We criticize the first-Christmas innkeeper for not making room, but at least he had the excuse that he didn’t know. We, the husbandmen, know when we are denying Him room and driving the Master’ Son from the vineyard.

One of the temptations Lucifer offered Christ was “all the kingdoms of the world,” ironic since Christ created the world and was bound to inherit it if he didn’t fall for the temptations. Are we any different from Satan if we think the world is ours to keep or give? The husbandmen told themselves when the son of the master approached, “This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours” (Luke 20:14).

We don’t want to be reminded of our subordinate position or of our stewardship, or especially that all the vineyard has to offer is not ours. We Americans consume four times our share of the earth’s bounty—at least those of us who don’t go hungry. We think it is our right as a “heaven-rescued land,” but we ignore the second commandment, to love our neighbor.

And the question rises again: who is our neighbor? The Iranian, the North Korean, the Cuban, the Venezuelan, the Iraqi, the Syrian, the Congolese, the Sudanese. These are some of the counterparts for Americans to the Samaritans. Who else is my neighbor? The illegal immigrant, the prisoner, the “Welfare Queen,” the drop-out. But wait! They have betrayed the law of the vineyard, which is, “Work hard and you’ll earn enough to go on vacation every year and retire early.” They don’t deserve of the bounty of our American vineyard. They desecrate the credo “May God thy gold refine / ‘Til all success be nobleness / And every gain divine!”

I believe that God did set this nation aside. But why? So we could grow fat, dumb and selfish? So we could accumulate wealth? No, it was to bring about His own designs. What are they? What is the Master going to do with the fruits of this vineyard? We don’t know. But we can certainly keep in mind whose vineyard it is, listen to His messengers, and accept His Son into His vineyard with the respect and love due Him.

5 Comments

Reluctant says:

I was told the other day that if I chose to refuse to fight for my country on grounds of my Christian beliefs, it would be “immoral.”

Ok fine… you goaded me into commenting on your blog. You either totally misunderstood what I was saying or intentionally misrepresented it. I’m hoping it was the former.

I said that a government cannot force an entire people to not defend themselves (and potentially be slaughtered by an unrelenting enemy). If you as an individual want to keep from fighting in a war for religious reasons, I think that is just fine.

Centrist says:

Reluctant, if a government cannot force its citizens NOT to protect the nation, can it force them TO protect it? In America the answer is yes, or imprisonment. Why? Because if too many people decide they don’t want to fight, the state (and therefore the government) faces extinction. And because states are as intent on self-preservation as the rest of us, they make laws to compel people to kill other people so we can “maintain our way of life,” even if that way of life is against our “Christian” moorings.

Reluctant says:

I didn’t say that the government is doing it correctly. Individuals should have all the choice they want in that regard. Although I don’t agree that an individual who is enjoying the benefits of military employment (and schooling) during peace time can suddenly claim to be a conscientious objector as soon as a war comes along. But that’s another discussion.

But as a government leader, I don’t believe it moral to tell the people that because of how you believe, they are going to possibly die. Now, if the (significant) majority votes that they don’t want to fight against an invading force, then so be it. That’s again the choice of the people.

But when life is at stake, the leader has a moral obligation to protect his people. And yes, that very likely means fighting a war.

Mike W. says:

Why is the moral obligation TO fight? Why isn’t the moral obligation to not fight? I would argue that that is a better way to protect his people, in the long run. It just requires generational thinking instead of the expediency with which ALL politicians currently act.

Reluctant says:

I’m not saying that fighting is the better way to go. I’m just saying that you can’t force everyone to believe like you do. Especially when life is on the line.

Let’s put this in terms that are a little less “large.” A few years ago there was a big uproar in a Davis or Weber County community about having a city owned swimming pool open on Sundays. A study/poll was conducted and it was determine that it would still be profitable (at least break even) if the pool remained open on Sunday.

Half of the community wanted it open and the other half wanted it closed (in fact slightly more than half). Which way is the right way? Morally speaking (if you follow orthodox Christian beliefs) the pool should be closed because of the Sabbath Day. But is it right for a community to close a public service just because a slight majority believe a day is sacred?

You can’t force your beliefs on others. You can only try to convince them of your beliefs.

I fully agree that not fighting is the higher road, but you can’t force that higher road on someone who doesn’t believe in that higher road.

I said “higher road” a lot 😉

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