Trouble at the vineyard
Again silence descended, and Jesus just sat there with his disciples around him. Then one of the women listening to the story said (bitterly), well, I know were not supposed to say anything in the presence of men, but theres men for you. Whats this story about? Its about men! A landlord, a son, tenant farmers, male slaves theyd never send a woman on business like that. And a Gallilean guy whos really telling a story to get at our marvellous all-male priesthood and that male disciple with him, recording the whole thing. (One of the disciples hastily stopped writing on a tablet,) The woman went on. Not a woman among them: we always get shut out; the invisible race, thats us. I dont need such stories: I might as well read a Mills and Boon romance or the latest edition of Vogue.
But another woman beside her disagreed, and said, But dont you see? We are there! How do you suppose the landlords wife felt? I wonder if she ever knew anything about her husbands business operations, though I reckon she was excited about that trip overseas. Perhaps nothing came home to her until she heard about the trouble at the vineyard and found out her husband was going to send their son (her son) to fix it. Did she spend sleepless nights worrying about him? And imagine how she felt when the news reached her that hed been killed like that, in a far away place, so lonely, so far from her.
And what about the mothers and wives and partners of the slaves who died for no other reason than that they were doing what theyd been sent to do by their boss? And what about the women of the tenant farmers; surely they had mothers, even grandmothers still alive (some of them) and wives and daughters. Were they consulted about the mens plans to murder those people and keep the vineyard business for themselves? I bet they werent. And I do wonder what happened to them afterwards. For every tenant, a widow; for every body a woman weeping. And what kind of life ahead of them? They might have had decent meals and a house and regular work while they looked after that cursed place. Perhaps for the first time in their lives. But with no man in their lives ever again who would marry a poverty stricken widow, with children to feed, and a story like that about her neck what else could they expect but destitution and endless misery. Men never think about the cost to us of what they do; we always end up the victims of their failed business schemes and their bloody violence to each other. He should have known that: he should have put us into the story too.
She started to wipe away a few tears, but a man sitting beside her sneered: stupid women! They never do anything but cry about suffering and being put down. But what interests me is the landlord I reckon the fellow meant the landlord to stand for God; after all theyre both boss types. Typical of both of them, too. I mean your landlord and your God, theyre absentees most of the time. Never there when you need them or want them. They let the place go to rack and ruin, then all of a sudden they remember theyre in charge and come booming in and wipe out a few offenders. Then its back off-shore again, and out of sight and out of mind. Heres a few murderous tenants cleaned off the slate but not before theyve killed several innocent people and nobody can bring them back to life. Have you noticed that every time some such disaster strikes we call it divine retribution, or an Act of God; and what use is it, except to give the survivors a bit of satisfaction?
Hang on! interjected another man, You miss the point! What if God or the landlord hadnt done something drastic like that? The tenants would have been left in full possession of the vineyard, enjoying a world they had no right to. If everyone acted like they did, it would be open slather. No properties would be safe; every one would just take what they wanted. It would be complete mayhem and chaos. And murdering the owners representatives, and his son. What price human life? We need God to be in charge, ready to punish sin and guilt. As a matter of fact, I think that storys about the Last Judgement, and all of us are the tenants, who think they can take over control of the world, and leave God out of the equation all together. But you cant, see. Without justice, life turns brutish and nasty and completely self-centred. Were only kept good, all of us, by being frightened of what will happen if we turn bad.
Control freaks! Youre all control freaks! yelled a tough-looking working woman. And youre all on the side of the bosses, because youre scared for your own property and your own good-living. What about the tenants? The boss puts them into a job, sure, because hes the only one with the capital and the power to set up a business. Hes probably filthy rich, anyway, and doesnt need the bloody vineyard. Its just a hobby-interest for him: you know, a boutique wine with his name on it, never mind the people who actually worked to produce it. They, poor devils, earn a wage thats just enough to get by on, while he siphons off all the profits to pay for his overseas trips. Those tenants remind me of the early communists. And the only way they could break the monopoly on property and goods and wealth of the rich was to seize the landowners land and fight force with force when the landowners came looking for their property. Its always the same story; the poor struggle to get their hands on a little bit more of the worlds goods, and then the powerful and rich overwhelm them; the revolutionaries get wiped out, and the survivors have to start all over again. If the guy who told that story was on the side of the losers, hed want us to get annoyed at the landlord, not at the tenants.
Excuse me, murmured a clerical-looking man. But were getting way off track here. This story is not about politics but religion. Jesus is a religious leader after all. And while I wouldnt go so far as to keep religion completely separate from politics and economics, they are different, you know. I have to say Im disappointed in this story; its not much more than another cheap shot at the Church. I just dont believe that the Church is always in the wrong, denying its prophets, killing Gods messengers and surely its far too exaggerated suggesting that Gods own son could be amongst them. Gods not like us! God doesnt have children as we do: God is different, way beyond us, way beyond our understanding. And the Church has produced so much good, so many good people, throughout its history; its ridiculous to accuse it of being blind and deaf to its very reason for existence.
Then one of the disciples the one whod been taking notes while Jesus was talking couldnt contain himself. But dont you see, thats the point of the story. Its the Scribes and the Pharisees who are against us. Whove always been against us. Theyre the criminals, theyre the ones who seized the vineyard and even went so far as killing to keep it in their possession. Look, theyve seen off every prophet who ever spoke up for the little people and against the establishment. Ive never known one of the high and mighty who cared a damn for us. At last weve got another leader whos on our side. Down with the Scribes and the Pharisees! Down with the Scribes and the Pharisees! He was just going to start a chant, when Jesus put out a restraining hand.
Silence fell again. It lasted a long time. Finally one man turned to his neighbour and muttered, Who knows what it means. Im sick and tired of religious nutters telling mysterious stories. And I bet theyll be arguing about what it all means till kingdom come. Give me something straight and to the point, Im off to watch tele: you dont have to think when you can settle in with a beer and game between the Warriors and the Roosters. Im going home. And he did.