My wife is also doing the Inductive Bible Study homework. Here is her post. Currently, she’s done Luke 17:6-8, and as we continue along, we’ll add to this post. Enjoy!
Luke 17:6-10 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“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’?
Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?
Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
The key to understanding these verses is to understand the beginning of the chapter also. The chapter begins with Jesus giving the disciples a stern rebuke about sin. The temptation to sin is real. In fact, it will come up often (daily? many times a day?) in the Christian life. Does that give us an excuse to sin? Absolutely not (Romans 6:1&2 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”) Then the chapter talks about forgiveness. If a brother (so another Christian) sins against you (implied from the following sentence), we are to rebuke him and if he repents, we are commanded to forgive him. Even if he sins repeatedly, yet repents we are commanded to forgive him (implying that it is not our place to decide if his repentance is genuine or if he is using repentance as an excuse to keep sinning against us). Verse 5 is the disciples crying out, “Lord increase our faith!”
The question is then, what was the attitude of the disciples when they cried out to the Lord to increase their faith. My first reaction when I read this passage is to assume that they are crying out with the right attitude, in submission and desiring to grow in their character. The interesting part is that Jesus responds in a way that makes me wonder if perhaps the disciples didn’t have the correct heart attitude. Jesus responds in verses 6-10 with an analogy and a parable. The fact that Jesus used a parable is worth noting because in Matthew 13:10&11, we read, “And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” This leads us to wonder if perhaps the disciples were in need of correction and discipline in this area.
Verse 6: And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
“If” is a key word because it implies that they don’t have the faith they need. A mustard seed is very tiny and yet the Lord is saying even that tiny amount is worthwhile. I wonder if the disciples were doubting the Lord in the way he wanted sin and offenses dealt with. The disciples are told that if they had even a little faith they would do things comparable to moving trees with thick and deep roots. But they don’t have that amount of faith right now.
Application: How much faith do I have? Do I have the amount of a mustard seed or even less than that? No, it’s not about doing “wow” things for others to see. It’s about me and my faith. Do I believe that forgiving someone repeatedly is truly the best method or do I think “my way” is better than the Lords. Every time I don’t deal with an offense (either by repenting or forgiving) I am telling the Lord that my ways are better than His. Ouch. That really isn’t faith, is it? While studying this chapter, I came across this quote by Matthew Henry: “That we have all need to get our faith strengthened, because, as that grace grows, all other graces grow.” This week I want to focusing on praying daily for my faith to be strengthened and as the Lord brings to mind any issues of forgiving or seeking forgiveness, I want to deal with those.
Verses 7-10 go very much together in my opinion. I have heard them described as “brief story of dedicated service that belongs to the master” and after spending some time studying and reading this chapter, I think this is a good summary of these verses. Humility or the need for humility seems to be a fitting theme for this section.
Verse 7: “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’?”
There are many different kinds of “servant” or “slave” found in the bible. It can actually get pretty confusing. You see servants that are the property of others and you see servants that are indebted to someone for a time for a certain debt (enslaved). You see all different words used to describe this person: slave, servant, bondslave, bondservant, attendant, worshipper, prophet, one born as a servant, one bought as a servant, youth worker, handmaid, etc. The list goes on and on. In the NT, Paul even uses the metaphor of “doulos” (greek for “slave, bondman, man of servile condition”) to describe our Christian walk, “one who gives himself up to another’s will, those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing his cause among men.”
One of the challenges of living in a different culture and a different generation is that metaphors change over time. Yet to understand the Bible accurately, we have to step back in time and strive to understand what Jesus and the disciples knew about servants and slaves. Our knowledge of slavary if pretty much limited to Africans being kidnapped from Africa and forced into slavery here in the U.S. Our knowledge of servants (or “servile condition”) is limited because we don’t have this relationship anymore – – someone explained it to me as an employee to a certain extent. Key to understanding this passage is the fact that the word “doulos” which is the word Jesus uses for servant in this passage is a relationship in which their is a certain amount of choice on the servants behalf to give up their will and and willingly take up another’s will for their life. In a way, it is like a job and submitting yourself to your employer.
Taking all that into consideration, we read this verse once again. Imagine that you have an assistant that was in the middle of making a huge stack of copies for you and you decided to send them out to Starbucks to get a few lattes for you and the other directors that were getting ready to have an important board meeting. When he or she came back in with the coffee, would you say to your assistant, “thanks, why don’t you come and have a latte with us and join in on this board meeting?” or would you say to your assistant, “thanks, now please get back to the copies.” I highly doubt you would invite him to have a latte and join the meeting, but would that make you an abusive or cruel employer? Hardly, because it is all part of a relationship we understand, an employer/employee relationship.
Application: Jesus and his disciples understood this relationship and it seems to me after my studying that He was chiding them, using a “sarcastic” example to show them how silly this mentality was. Were the disciples struggling with thinking they deserved the same treatment as their Lord? Do I struggle with that same thinking? Do I believe with my entire heart and mind that I am called to be a “doulos” or servant that has given up my entire will and taken up my Lord’s will in order that I might play a role (as a servant) in furthering the kingdom of God? Or do I get caught up with what I am “owed” and how I am treated? This week I want to focus on my heart attitude through prayer and repentance and ask the Lord what areas I need to change that demonstrate that I am focused more on what I should be receiving instead of what I should be giving.
Verse 8: Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?
There isn’t a lot of background explanation needed about this verse, because it is implying the same principles that verse 7 is implying. However, I think there are a few interesting extra notes to make about this verse.
“Prepare supper for me” is a command to serve. Even though in verse 7, the servant had just come in from working on the field, it is not time for him to rest. It isn’t a situation of, “okay I did a little work for you Lord and now I deserve a little reward here on earth.” The verse continues with, “…and dress properly.” What does that mean? Verse 7 has the servant working independently for the Lord but in verse 8, now the servant is going to work intimately for the Lord, interacting with Him in person. There are various ways we serve the Lord and sometimes it requires us to “dress properly” or perhaps prepare our hearts to work completely in quiet humility and submission. Out in the field, perhaps there were decisions the servant needed to make on his or her own. Where to take the sheep for that day, what part of the field to plow. Now here in the home, serving his or her master, it is time to become completely servile and do exactly as the master commands.
The verse says, “…and serve me, while I eat and drink.” I see the picture of adoration, watching and jumping to the masters every need. “Do you need more food? Would you like a refill on your drink?” It is only following dinner that is says, “…and afterward you will eat and drink.” It isn’t to say your needs won’t be met but it is to say that your wants and needs to not come first. An additional biblical definition of “doulos” is to be devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests. That is a pretty heavy definition when you think about it and process it.
Application: How do I prepare myself for serving the Lord. Do I take the time to clothe myself in humility and prepare my heart to be of the right attitude before I leave my bedroom each morning? Do I fulfill the Lord’s requirements of me before I take care of myself? This week, a change I want to make is to have my prayer time in the morning BEFORE I focusing on getting myself ready or feeding myself.