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The Unprofitable Servant

The Passage:
Luke 17:7-10

The Parameters

    Preceding context - Offences and forgiveness (17:1-4)

Jesus has just told the disciples, if their brother sins against them seven times a day, they need to forgive him. Their response is “Increase our faith!” Jesus points out that faith is not the issue. If they had faith as big as a mustard seed, they could do anything. Jesus is not making a commentary on their faith or lack of faith. He is correcting their statement. He begins verse 7 with “but” which shows that in contrast to this being an issue of faith, it is an issue of something else.

    Following context - Lepers cleansed with only a thankful Samaritan (17:11-19)

The point of this miracle and the response of the nine Israelites compared to the one Samaritan is that the Israelites thought that their healing was deserved and were not grateful while the Samaritan knew he was unworthy and therefore was grateful.

The Problem

Jesus is dealing with the attitude that believes forgiving one’s brother is above the call of duty and requires special faith.

The Progression

Logical: the expectation of the slave relationship.

    The rhetorical question (expecting a negative response)

    The regular expectation (expecting an affirmative response)

  • Prepare the meal
  • Clothe yourself
  • Serve the master
  • Eat after serving

    The rhetorical question (expecting a negative response)

    The revelational application (expecting an affirmative response)

When you do the things commanded of you:

  • Recognize your unworthiness
  • Realize your obligation
  • Implied - Don’t expect extra rewards

The Point

A disciple acts in faith when he does not expect extra rewards for faithful service to the Lord as His master.

The Relation of the Parable to the Kingdom Program of God

As a disciple of the kingdom, one needs to understand that faith comes in obedience to the Word of God. To increase one’s faith is not a quantitative consideration but qualitative commitment. Even a faith the size of a mustard seed will have extraordinary results. A disciple, like a slave, must recognize one’s proper place in relationship to the King and serve out of loyalty to the relationship and not out of expectation for the reward. A relationship with Christ is the result of a relationship based on the grace of the Master and not on the worth of the servant.

The Principles

  • Gratitude for the grace of God should outweigh all other motivations. If someone gave you $10,000 as a gift because you were in a bind financially, and he saved you from foreclosure or some such fate, what would your attitude towards that person be? If he asked you to do him a favor, a month or so later, would you feel inconvenienced? or would you be glad to do it? I suspect if something that tangible happened, you would really feel the gratitude, etc. Why aren’t we awestruck with God’s gift to us?
  • Faith ought to be demonstrated by obedience. If I believe God, I’ll do what He wants me to do.
  • Don’t expect extra reward for expected service. The issue is my attitude. When I serve, is my motivation rewards? or gratitude? If it is primarily rewards, I am a mercenary. We need balance. Both motivations are valid.
  • My submission to Christ should reflect His absolute Lordship over my life.
  • True servanthood demands that I put the interests of Jesus Christ before my own.
  • The time and skills of the servant should be at the disposal of the Master.
  • Even rewards are a demonstration of God’s graciousness and enablement.
  • What follows this parable is an account of the healing of ten lepers. It is not a coincident that it follows this teaching. Jesus’ miracles always illustrate what he has just taught or is about to teach. We discussed it in the introduction, but now maybe the miracle that follows will take on new significance. Jesus has just taught that obedience comes from the gratitude of an unworthy person. Now we see ten lepers healed and only one returns to say thank you. Why?

Related Topics: Spiritual Life