Poor Tobit was only trying to do what was right. When he was invited to a fancy dinner, he wanted to share his good fortune with someone less fortunate. When he finds out his kinsman has been killed, he wants to give the man a decent burial. Apparently he’s been in trouble for that before, but he still thinks it’s the right thing to do, and he will risk imprisonment or even death to do what is right. Later on, after he’s blinded by bird droppings, his wife is given a goat and he won’t even let her keep it because he’s afraid it might be stolen. He’s all about doing what’s right, even when it’s not easy. It would be easier to just enjoy his dinner, but it’s the right thing to share it with someone hungry. It would be easier to let the dead man lie, especially when it’s against the law to bury him. It would be easier to just enjoy the goat, but he wants to make sure it’s legit.
The folks in the Gospel are certainly not taking their cue from Tobit. These tenants steal from their landowner. Instead of giving him the produce of the vineyard, they want to keep it all for themselves. When he sends servants to see after his investment, the tenants beat and kill the messengers. They know the grapes and the profits are not theirs; they know it’s wrong to kill the messengers from the landlord, but they don’t care. They just want the benefit. The landlord even sends his own son – his own inheritor – to get the benefit from the vineyard, and then tenants kill him too thinking this way they will surely get the benefit since the heir is no longer in the picture. Of course this is a parable. Of course the vicious tenants are all the people who ignored God’s prophets, who even killed God’s own son, thinking they would reap the benefits of the earth when in fact, like the tenants in the parable, they themselves will die for their crimes and they will not reap the benefits they sought to steal. The chief priests and scribes did recognize themselves in the parable – they did not arrest Jesus at that point, but of course, they would later and would make that prophecy come true.
The right way isn’t always the easy way. It’s frequently hard to do what is right. It’s easier to lie and cheat and steal and just take what you want regardless of the morality. I think I’d rather take Tobit’s lesson and go out of my way to do what is right. I can’t think of anything in this world worth murder, and then there’s always the next world to consider.
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