Luke 17:7 ESV – “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?
The gist of the parable is this: Jesus asks them if they owned a servant, would the tell the servant to relax when he came in from the field? Wouldn’t they rather tell him to serve dinner before he rests. Would they thank the servant? In the same way, they will call themselves unworthy servants.
Today, we’ll stick to verse 7 as much as possible. First off, we notice that Jesus is asking the disciples a rhetorical question. Will any of you who has a servant … say to him…come at once and recline? The way Jesus starts the next verse, “Will he not rather…” implies that the answer to His question is “no.” This leaves us with a major question: is Jesus rhetorical description of the treatment of a servant prescriptive or simply descriptive?
Jesus was definitely describing the mode of thinking for the disciples. In a sense, He’s saying, “Of course you wouldn’t tell a servant to sit down before he’s done working!” The question is whether or not Jesus is displaying the current morality of the culture, or if He’s prescribing the ethic. That is, should we treat a servant this way?
In the Jewish culture, a man would only have a servant if the servant couldn’t afford to pay a debt to his master. In this regard, every servant is indebted of his life to his master. So, I don’t think it’s prescriptive either way to be kind to your hired servant or not. The servant is indebted. Fair is fair, as long as the treatment isn’t harsh, it’s OK.
As far as application goes, I obviously do not have a servant, nor would I want one. However, in light of this passage, I should determine how I would treat someone that is serving me. For example, in a restaurant, how should I treat the waiter/waitress? I definitely don’t ask them to sit down and have a drink with me or my party. I don’t think that is required of me from God, either.
However, since this passage of scripture is still in the context of repentance, forgiveness, and faith, I would say that I should be overly gracious to anyone who serves me. I should use the faith God’s given me to help them see that the God of the Universe loves them and wants to have a meaningful relationship with them. This is simply my duty.