He said, There was a good man who owned a vineyard. He leased it to tenant farmers so that they might work it and he might collect the produce from them. He sent his servant so that the tenants might give him the produce of the vineyard. They seized his servant and beat him, all but killing him. The servant went back and told his master. The master said, ‘Perhaps they did not recognize him.’ He sent another servant. The tenants beat this one as well. Then the owner sent his son and said, ‘Perhaps they will show respect to my son.’ Because the tenants knew that it was he who was the heir to the vineyard, they seized him and killed him. Let him who has ears hear. (65)
A similar parable is found in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, but they are clearly about the rejection of Jesus as Messiah by the people of Israel. This is quite different, being about a flaw in personal judgment of a life situation.
Sometimes goodness can hinder a person rather than further them. I know that sounds strange, but I have seen how extremely truthful and guileless people can easily be fooled by liars because it never crosses their mind that someone might be lying to them. My maternal grandmother was just such a person. Though highly intelligent, since she had grown up in a family where truthfulness was always observed and she herself had always been honest and open, anyone could hoodwink her, even the most blatant fakes.
The good man of this parable was kind and easygoing. Therefore when his tenants beat the man sent to collect the rent in the form of produce, he made excuse for them, saying: “Perhaps they did not recognize him,” which is really stretching it to beyond the breaking point. In fact, it is simply being foolish and not in the least virtuous. Those who do not confront evil and name it for what it is are themselves collaborators with that evil.
But the story does not end there. The same thing happened again. And instead of realizing that his tenants were criminals that needed harsh punishment, he sent his son, naively thinking that they would not do the same to him. And they did not: they killed him. So the father was as guilty of his son’s death as were they. This is plain fact.
Many times people tolerate outrageous behavior in the form of insults and injury. For years they keep saying to themselves: “They don’t realize what they are doing,” thinking they are following the example of Jesus when he prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). So this kind of nonsense can go on for years–until finally the message gets through: those people knew exactly what they were doing because they were evil and had evil intent toward us. It is the fault of those who blindly excuse them.
Being ready to see and name evil, we no longer suffer from it. So if peace is desired, then the willingness to give the boot to evil can prevent its incursion into our lives. This is a hard lesson to learn, and I hope what I have written will help you avoid a lot of pain and frustration.
Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: The Rejected is Truly Accepted