When we look at Our Lord’s story in today’s Gospel, we shake our heads over the terrible behavior of the tenants. We might wonder about two things. First, we wonder how the tenants could have been so immoral. Secondly, we wonder how the owner could have hired such terrible tenants without checking them out.
I got a partial answer to those questions when I sat in on a Scripture lecture by a Baptist scholar. He explained some Jewish religious laws affecting vineyards.
The Torah forbade the planting of two different crops on the same land, regarding it as agricultural adultery. However, since a newly planted vineyard could not produce a vintage for its first four years, during those years the vinedresser was permitted to plant other crops between the vines.
The listeners to Our Lord’s parable probably understood it that way. They understood that the argument between the owner and the tenants was over who profited from the crops grown between the vines.
Even so, the tenants behaved in a criminal way, as we do when we live for ourselves rather than as God’s tenants.