By Paul Leavens
Ellen Goodman, a liberal syndicated columnist with the Boston Globe, wrote about America’s conflicting values. She stated, “The problem isn’t that we have a poverty of values. It’s that we have an excessive amount of values in conflict with each other.”
Although I disagree with her solution, I believe she correctly identified the problem: Most people have no absolute standard of right and wrong.
Jesus told a parable in Matthew 21 that underscores that it is the Lord God who establishes the moral codes for his world. Following the cleansing of the temple, the religious leaders challenged Jesus: By what right did Jesus impose his values on them?
The Lord responded with a parable about some tenants who foolishly behaved as though they were the owners. That parable teaches basic principles that are desperately needed for our time.
The inherent authority of God
If you write a book, you have authority over who publishes it. If you own a house, you have authority over who lives in it.
Likewise, God is the owner of this world. He designed it, created it, sustains it. He has temporarily entrusted it to man, but he still has exclusive rights to it. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters” (Psalm 24:1). The owner of the vineyard represents God.
The ignorant rebellion of man
Charles Swindoll suggests four characteristics of man’s spiritual rebellion:
1. An unresponsiveness to the gestures of love. Even though the owner of the vineyard was trusting and patient, the tenants still rebelled against his ownership.
2. An intensified appetite for disobedience. It is the very nature of sin that it grows progressively worse (see James 1:15). The first rent collector was beaten, the second was killed, the next was stoned.
3. A distorted thinking that becomes irrational. The tenants lost all common sense. “When the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance’” (Matthew 21:38). How stupid can you get! There’s no way the owner was going to will the land to the men who killed his son. Sin sears the conscience and distorts thinking (Romans 1:21,22).
4. Insensitivity to impending judgment. The renters somehow believed they would never be punished. The owner was far away, and it had been a long time since they heard from him, so they concluded they could kill the son with no accountability. But the Bible assures, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows” (Galatians 6:7).
The ultimate judgment of God
“When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” Jesus asked (Matthew 21:40). “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” his listeners answered (v. 41).
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). Since the rebel heart of man is no longer responding to the gestures of God’s love, perhaps we need to emphasize step one in knowing God: the fear of judgment.
A survey found that some believers were reluctant to put anyone in Hell (only twenty two percent believed Hitler was there and only ten percent believed Judas was). Most interviewed didn’t believe God would hold people accountable for sin. But the Bible says we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10).
So while Ellen Goodman and others may not know where to settle the issue of conflicting values, we do. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
- Finish this sentence: “When faced with an authority figure (a police officer, a boss), I feel.”
- How does your attitude about authority affect your relationship with God? How can you respond positively to the Lord’s authority in your daily life?
Dr. Paul Leavens is minister of the Christian Church in Lindsay, 120 N. Frazier Ave. To contact him, call 559-562-3743 or visit www.lindsaychristianchurch.org.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.