Legend has it that the vast battleship, USS Montana, was sailing in the Atlantic Ocean at night. The captain suddenly saw a blinking light on its path. Assuming it was another ship, he sent out a Morse code with the light from the battleship, signaling, “Starboard, starboard, 20 degrees north,” asking the other vessel to turn away to avoid a collision.
However, the light on the other end did not comply but responded with a similar signal, “Starboard, starboard; you must turn 20 degrees south to avoid a collision.” The captain was furious at the response, so he sent another signal saying, “Listen, this is the mighty USS Montana, the battleship. You must move out of my way.”
The light on the other end replied, “This is the lighthouse!” (End of the Story).
There are many lighthouses around the world guiding ships to avoid dangerous territories. In the same way, there are guiding principles in life that we must follow to live a good life. The lighthouses are lifesavers, not our enemies. However, some people ignore the lighthouses to their own detriment.
Jesus uses a different metaphor. He compares himself to the cornerstone. He says,
“The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” (Mt 21:44).
He is saying ignore him at your own risk. We cannot destroy a lighthouse or cornerstone by crashing against it. We can only crush ourselves by ignoring it. Of course, Jesus does not want to see us destroyed. He said he came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.
He has given us some important life principles to live an abundant life. One of them is to recognize that life is borrowed, not owned. If we can maintain that attitude, we will live a joyful life. We don’t possess our life; it is a rental unit. We must pay rent, but it is worth it.
For some people, it might be hard to accept the paradigm that life is borrowed but not owned. But this paradigm shift is so important that it is like the light from the lighthouse or the cornerstone upon which to build our lives. It will make your life much happier if you adopt this guiding principle.
Today, we will explore Jesus’ teaching from this week’s scripture lesson about the truth that life is borrowed, not owned, and how this attitude can help us live an abundant life free from stress and anxiety but filled with purpose and meaning. Let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today is from the Gospel According to Matthew 21:33-46. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34 When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44 The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46 They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. (Mt 21:33–46).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
The context of this teaching begins with Jesus cursing the fig tree to death for not bearing fruit. Jesus was on the way to Jerusalem and became hungry on his way. He saw a fig tree on the roadside and looked for some fruit to eat but found nothing at all. He cursed to fruit, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” The tree withered at once.
That incident became the theme of his teaching at the temple, indicating the unfruitfulness of the religious leaders in Jerusalem. By fruit, Jesus expects to see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
He saw none of these from the religious leaders except murderous schemes to arrest and crucify him. They pretended to be good and kind, but lip service is all they offer. Their actions don’t match their words. Jesus told the parable of the two brothers to remind them that God prefers action over words.
Now, Jesus told the Parable of the Vinyard to reveal that they were murderous, dangerous, and unhappy because they had forgotten that life is borrowed, not owned. Jesus said,
“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.” (Mt 21:33).
The landowner represents God, and the tenants are us. God gives us his creation with everything in place for harvest and wine production. It is a turnkey business. In just one verse, Jesus described a perfect vineyard and winery. It means God has given us everything we need to be fruitful and productive.
A friend is moving to the Untied States and looking to buy a good franchise because he thinks it’s the most straightforward business for a newcomer to run. You don’t have to understand the culture, the management, and the legal systems. Everything is set up for you to turn the key, step on the gas, and drive.
The franchiser has done all the hard work for you. All you have to do is pay the franchise fee and follow the instructions manual to run the business. You are guaranteed a profit, and the business will grow based on how fast you learn and how much effort you put in.
Imagine your life is a good franchise, a turnkey system for you to be fruitful and productive. The only way to fail is when you do nothing about it, just like the third servant in the Parable of the Talents. What God gives you is the best, and most people who know it feel grateful. King David wrote,
“The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it;” (Ps 24:1).
Even as a king, he didn’t take ownership of his kingdom. He regarded everything as God’s. He was only a tenant, steward, or franchisee managing God’s business.
Jesus said the landowner leased it to the tenants and went to another country. That means God trusts us and gives us a great deal of freedom to manage his vineyard. His absence doesn’t mean he is no longer an owner. The products of the vineyard belong to him.
Here’s the next level of this truth that we must accept to live an abundant life. Life is not only borrowed but what we make out of life is also not ours. Our fruit belongs to God. We owe God the produce. If the fact that life is borrowed is hard to accept, what we produce in life is also borrowed will be even harder to accept. But, again, like the lighthouse, anyone may ignore this truth to their detriment. Jesus then said,
When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35 But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. (Mt 21:34-35).
That is what happens when we forget that our lives are borrowed. We take ownership of our produce and become violent when the owner comes to collect the produce. The slaves represent the prophets throughout history who remind us that life is borrowed and we must recognize the owner. When they didn’t like the message, they killed the messenger.
The freedom God has given us makes us think we own our lives and that we don’t need Him. We want God out of sight and out of our lives. We want to deny the existence of the landowner. Our society encourages people to take ownership of their lives.
People are proud of poems like Invictus, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” It’s not easy to preach the message to remind people that life is leased and that we are but stewards of our lives.
People become defensive when they hear they don’t own their lives. That’s the recipe for stress and anxiety. No wonder our society has so many mental health problems. Jesus continues,
“Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Mt 21:37-39).
Jesus was telling this parable to the religious leaders who came to trap him so that they could arrest him and get him crucified. They didn’t understand Jesus was talking about himself, the Son of God, sent to redeem the world.
The story shifted to mean that these religious leaders were the tenents conspiring to kill the Son of God. Jesus foretold his death, which took place a few days later. Just as they took them outside of the vineyard to kill him, they took Jesus outside of Jerusalem to crucify him.
Then, Jesus asked them the following question to convict themselves.
Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” (Mt 21:40-41).
The religious leaders said that God would put those “wretches” to miserable death. At that point, they didn’t realize Jesus was talking about them. It shows that we tend to see other people’s faults but not our own. They didn’t realize they were the wretches—ungrateful, unfaithful, and unfruitful. Jesus then said,
“Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.” (Mt 21:43).
Now, Jesus made a straightforward statement. The kingdom of God will be taken away from those unfruitful religious leaders to the fruitful people. Notice the theme of “fruitfulness” in all these chapters. Those religious leaders were faithful but not fruitful.
As I said last week, faith without fruit is futile. Jesus hates fruitlessness so much that he cursed an unfruitful tree to death. Jesus revealed to them that the religion under their leadership would collapse, and God would rebuild it on his death and resurrection.
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’?” (Mt 21:42)
The cornerstone is the most important part of the building. Without it, the building is like a house of cards. Without it, our lives are not stable. It’s foolish to reject the cornerstone. Jesus is reminding us that life is borrowed, not owned and that he is the owner of our lives. Rejecting that guiding principle is like rejecting the cornerstone. Then he says,
The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” (Mt 21:44).
We are like eggs, and Jesus is like a rock. We will only hurt ourselves if we stubbornly bump our eggheads against the rock. But the eggheads of those religious leaders turned out to be pinheads. It says,
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. (Mt 21:45–46).
Instead of repenting, they even more wanted to arrest Jesus. They couldn’t handle the truth. Their unfruitfulness necessitates Jesus’ death and resurrection. His resurrection proves that he controls life. He is the creator and the owner of this earth and everything in it. He gave us this life; we must treasure it as tenants or stewards.
I want to challenge you to shift your paradigm about life. Try it out and see how you feel. Treat life as a one-hundred-year lease. You don’t own it. You will notice you have less stress, less anxiety, and less worry, but more joy, more gratitude, and more peace, most importantly, more fruitful. You will realize life is not about me but about God.
Jesus says those who put his words in practice build their house on a solid rock, which stand strong against the storms, but those who ignore him build their life on the sand. Don’t collide with the lighthouse or reject the Cornerstone. Let’s remember Jesus’ guiding principle of happiness—life is leased, not owned. Let’s live it that way and be fruitful!
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.