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John Ortberg Learns Valuable Lessons from Vineyard

In a sermon, John Ortberg said:

A little while ago, my wife kidnapped me and took me to Napa Valley for a romantic, overnight getaway for just the two of us. I had never been to Napa Valley before. It's lovely. What struck me as I was going past the vineyards was all of the thought and action that went into the rows of vines. A fruitful, productive vineyard is a thing of beauty. But here's the thing about vineyards: they don't just happen by themselves. Vineyards don't just spring up by accident. Someone is behind them.

The writer of Proverbs 24:30–34 says: I was going past a vineyard, and it was a mess. There were thorns all over the place, the grounds were covered with weeds, and the walls were falling down.

To understand the angst behind this proverb … you have to understand that in the ancient Middle East, a piece of land capable of growing crops was one of the most valuable things in the world. To be the owner of a vineyard was to be blessed with the opportunity of a lifetime. …

Everybody gets a vineyard. When you were born, you got a vineyard. You got your body, your mind, your will, and some relationships. You got financial resources and the chance to do some good work. You got a soul. Everybody gets a vineyard, and that vineyard is your one and only shot on this planet. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, and you don't even have to care for it on your own. God will partner with you.

Nonetheless, God never forces anybody to take action and care for their vineyard. The writer of this Proverb says, "I was walking past a vineyard, and I thought of what it might have been." He sees that the vineyard could have been a thing of beauty. It could have been a source of pride, joy, and income to the owner. It could have been a blessing to everybody around it, because in ancient cultures, a place that grew things that people could eat or drink from was a blessing to everybody. But the vineyard the writer observed wasn't any of those things. It fell tragically short of what it might have been. The writer wonders why: Was there some catastrophe? Was there a drought, flood, fire, or some other disaster? No. It was just sheer negligence on the part of the owner of the vineyard. He had no idea what he had. He was throwing away the opportunity of a lifetime. That's the strange power of entropy. It's not even a thing. It's sheer neglect, and people throw their lives away because of it everyday. …

People have these fantasies: I want the perfect marriage, I want the perfect circle of friends, I want the perfect career and the perfect education; if I can't have that, then I won't do anything. The writer of Proverbs says we must start with reality. Work the land that is your land—your body, your life, your relationships, your work—because that vineyard is all you have. If it's ever going to be different, it won't be because the vineyard fairy comes and sprinkles fairy dust on it. It will be because you asked God to help you. It will be because you've asked him, "What's the next step that you want me to take?"

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