May 3, 2017 • Life for Leaders
What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it? When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad?
In Isaiah 5, the people of Israel are portrayed as God’s vineyard, with God as the owner and tender of the vineyard. Even though God invested great effort, lovingly caring for his vineyard, it did not produce the fruit for which he had labored. Israel had failed to live rightly with God, turning from him to worship idols and to wallow in sin.
We who belong to God through Christ are also his vineyard, which each individual Christian as a branch on the vine of Jesus (see John 15:1-8). Jesus shows us that we are to bear much fruit. Indeed, this is the sign of true discipleship.
And also true humanity. If we go all the way back to Genesis 1, we see that human beings are created in the image of God who has been at work making heaven and earth. The very first thing God tells the human beings to do is: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1:28). We are to bear fruit in various ways: by making more human beings and raising them well, by taking the stuff of the world and making more useful stuff, by taking good care of God’s creation, and so on.
I wonder if God looks upon us today and asks, “When I expected good grapes, why did my vineyard give me bad grapes?” When the church is snared by relativism, selfishness, and schism, are these not bitter grapes? When the lay people of God are not empowered and deployed into daily ministry, does this not shrink God’s rightful harvest? When we fail to steward well the creation God has entrusted to us, are we not failing in our fundamental fruitfulness?
Positively, if we use well all of the gifts God has entrusted to us, if we are productive in our daily work, if we live each day as an active disciple of Jesus, if we contribute both to the health of the church and to the common good, God will delight in the grapes that grow on our vine. And, according to Jesus, God will be glorified through us and our joy will be full (John 15:8, 11).
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
As God looks upon his vineyard today, what might he say?
Are you a fruit-bearing branch of Jesus, the vine?
What is the fruit for God in your life? In what ways does your daily work bear fruit for God?
Gracious God, as you did for Israel so many centuries ago, so you have done for your people today. You have tended us with love and care, giving us more than we need for fruitful living. Yet at times our fruit is not what you expect. We also produce bitter grapes . . . or no grapes at all. Forgive us, Lord.
Help me, Lord, to be so deeply connected to you that I live fruitfully. May my life bring you honor as I extend your kingdom into my world, whether in my workplace, my neighborhood, my family, my city, or my church.
Today, I pray for your church in this world, that we might be abundantly fruitful for you. Thank you for places across the globe where your church is flourishing. Help those of us who are in hurting churches. May we return once again to Jesus, abiding in him, his truth and his love, so we might produce a generous harvest. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: I am the Vine and You are the Branches (John 15)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.