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Reform Magazine | April 23, 2024

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Chapter and verse: Mark 12:1-12 - Reform Magazine

Chapter and verse: Mark 12:1-12

Eve Parker finds class conflict in Jesus’ vineyard parable

Welcome to 2020 Britain. Although, one could easily confuse it with that of a Dickensian novel, where the rich landowners plant their vineyards and expand their property portfolios while the poor are forced to work on zero-hour contracts, paying high rent to slum landlords.

According to Shelter’s ‘Generation Homeless’ report of December 2019 a child in the UK becomes homeless every eight minutes. Children are growing up in shipping containers due to the lack of council housing. One of the UK’s wealthiest landlords, the billionaire Duke of Westminster, attempted to make 141 people homeless in 2019, by trying to turn social housing into luxury apartments. Land distribution remains unequal in the UK. With rising rents and stagnating wages, working class people are hit the hardest.

Jesus’ parable speaks instantly to class conflict in Jerusalem. The upper class landowner appropriates peasant land, planting a vineyard to profit from labouring tenants: a system of dependency. He builds a fence and a watchtower around it, signifying the boundaries of his claim. These boundaries later become battlegrounds where voiceless slaves are caught in the crossfire of a rich man’s demand for ‘his’ capital and a tenant’s demands for their rights.

Many scholars argue that the landowner in this parable is representative of God, and the tenants are those who refuse to do God’s work. Read this way, the story appears to validate a social and economic model that portrays the landlord as righteous and the tenants as violent (which of course they are). But this fails to acknowledge the role of the landlord in creating a system of inequality and brutality…

Eve Parker is Postdoctoral Research Associate in Theological Education for Durham University


This is an extract from an article that was published in the February 2020 edition of Reform

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