Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
In Luke 17, the disciples asked Jesus, “Increase our faith.” Jesus replied, “If you have faith the size of a small mustard seed, that’s all it takes to uproot this mulberry tree and plant it in the sea”.
Then he told this story: “Suppose your slave ploughs your field all day. When he comes in at suppertime, will you say, “Thanks for ploughing. Why don’t you take a break while I get you some supper?” Not likely, says Jesus. You’re probably a calloused slave master who will say, “I’m hungry. Go wash up, get my supper ready, open a bottle of wine, and serve me as soon as possible.”
The slave has only done his duty, Jesus says. He hasn’t done anything remarkable. Jesus says that’s like our relationship with God. We’re his slaves, and when we have obeyed every command, we can say, “Looks like we’re rather worthless slaves. We’ve only done our job.”
Do you think it increased the disciples’ faith to imagine themselves as calloused slave masters and as God’s unworthy slaves? Did Jesus’ story bring them closer to that mustard seed of faith that can chuck a perfectly good tree into the ocean? Here’s what I think Jesus was telling them: “Don’t focus on a faith that does weird and wonderful tricks. It’s better to focus quietly on your duty to God and others. Plough the fields, prepare the suppers, don’t calculate how much reward you’re earning. Faith is God’s gift that helps you faithfully do your duty.”
In Luke 12, Jesus told another story about slaves. This lot were waiting through the night for their master to return from a wedding. Jesus said that when the master returns and finds his slaves awake and waiting, he will call them to the table and serve them dinner.
That’s strange. In the previous story, at the end of a long day, the slave master said, “Make my supper!.” But in this story, it’s flipped: the master is making supper for the slaves.
I see two lessons in these stories.
1. First, we are God’s slaves so our job is to do everything he tells us to do. That’s big. I find it hard enough to keep the Ten Commandments, much less follow the Sermon on the Mount and love my neighbour as myself. For me, that’s mission impossible, even though I’ve chosen to accept it. Jesus is right–we’re not very good slaves. Perhaps Jesus is saying that trying to earn God’s blessing by doing everything right is “mission impossible”. Perhaps the way forward is to receive God’s mercy that forgives our failures and gives us a heart of love and service.
2. The second lesson is this: If we wait patiently for God, one day he will turn the tables on us. It won’t be us serving him at his table. It will be him serving us.
Our father, we thought faith was the key to this Christian life. But we don’t have even the mustard seed level of faith that can relocate trees into the sea. Help us to hear and believe Jesus’ story. Help us to shift our focus from amazing works of faith to quiet service for others. Help us to work steadily without expecting appreciation or reward. Help us love you and our neighbors quietly, faithfully, graciously, even when we are unrecognized and unrewarded.
Our father, we wait for you as slaves wait for their master, serving you through our lifetime, hoping for Jesus’ return. Help us to be faithful. Bring us quickly to that time when you will invite us to sit at your supper table, and you will serve us the meal that begins an eternity of feasting with you.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.