There once was a steward. We’ll call him Stewart. Stewart the steward – catchy name.

Stewart was given responsibility for a vineyard. It wasn’t a big vineyard, but it had potential. The Master of the vineyard, after encouraging Stewart to invest himself wisely, left for a faraway land.

For a time, Stewart enjoyed watching over the vineyard that had been left to his keeping. He cherished and nurtured each vine. He did his best to help every vine produce the best tasting fruit possible. Stewart felt that he was accomplishing something important for the Master.

As He had promised, the Master periodically looked in on Stewart. He always had an encouraging word – a “well done, faithful steward.”

Stewart the steward had done well. Each year, the fruit produced by the Master’s vineyard tasted sweeter than the year before. The fame of the vineyard began to spread, first in the town and then across the country side.

One day, Stewart decided to ask the Master to give him a larger vineyard to manage. The Master, pleased by Stewart’s request, asked His Father. The Master’s Father, without an explanation we are aware of, said, “No”. Forever obedient, the Master passed along His Father’s decision.

Regrettably (and predictably), Stewart the steward was not happy. He knew he could do more for the Master’s kingdom. He knew he could make his vineyard (oops!) the biggest and sweetest in the whole region; maybe even in the whole land.

Looking out over his vineyard, Steward decided to take matters into his own hands. He would grow his vineyard with or without the Master blessing. And that is what he set out to do.

Though he had never tilled ground in his life, Steward began to till. Though he had never cultivated fruit vines, he began to cultivate. Of course, this took time away from the Master’s vineyard. Steward spent so much time tilling and cultivating, that he forgot to nurture the vines that had been entrusted to him.

Eventually, the Master of the vineyard stopped in to check on Steward’s progress. He immediately noticed the vineyard’s poor condition. To Steward’s surprise, the Master did not scold or punish him. He simply encouraged Steward to get back to cherishing and nurturing His vines (His only expectation). The Master left, more sad than mad – and privately concerned for Steward’s response.

Steward genuinely desired to please the Master. He recognized that the Master’s vines needed more personal care if they were to produce at their maximum potential. However, tending to these plants was difficult. They were set in their ways, and the weeds were hard to extract from underneath their growth. He did not look forward to the hard pruning that would be required. It would leave his vineyard looking, well, less lush. What would all the other stewards and townspeople think?

From the outside looking in, it is easy to recognize that Steward no longer cherished the Master’s vines. He did not care to nurture them. He would have to find another way to grow his vineyard. And “his vineyard” it became.

The rest of this story is too tragic to write in detail. Steward continued building his own vineyard. But, whatever he tried, the young saplings never produced the fruit he was hoping. The harder he worked on his vineyard, the sicklier the Master’s vineyard became.

Desperate for success, Steward turned to stealing mature plants from other vineyards (he didn’t know they also belonged to the Master). This only injured the plants and made them less productive. Still, Steward thought this plan would make him successful. In some respects, it did. His vineyard was finally producing more grapes. They weren’t as sweet, but there was certainly more of them.

This is where our story ends.

I know, what kind of ending is that? All I can say is that I don’t know the ending. I have some ideas… and I have some hopes.

I hope Steward eventually sees the error of his ways. I hope he repents and seeks the Master’s forgiveness. I hope he seeks the Master’s kingdom above his own.

I know the Master has not given up on Stewart the steward. I know the Master has more mercy and grace than any of us can imagine.

The church should be a healthy, fruitful vineyard that will bring honor to Christ, a church after Christ’s own heart where He can look at the travail of His soul and be satisfied. A. W. Tozer; Rut, Rot or Revival: The Condition of the Church

Will you join me in praying for Steward?

Humbly yours and forever His,

Rob