Read Luke 17:7-10
Duty, Honor, Country…
Honor, Courage, Commitment…
On my honor, I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my Country…
These words sound familiar to many. Some will know these as well.
I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender my men while they still have the means to resist.
If I am captured, I will continue to resist by all means available...
Winter is coming. Wait, that doesn’t go there.
I have been to many places and experienced many cultures in this world, but the biggest culture shock I ever had was in the summer of 1999 when I left the Marine Corps and returned to the world.
For over 2 decades:
I was used to people doing what they said they would do.
I was used to people doing things because that’s what they were supposed to do.
Tired was a footnote to the day’s history, not an excuse for not getting things done.
You did what you were supposed to do and you did not expect accolades for doing your duty. You didn’t expect anything extra.
It’s been nice over the past decade or so that people will say things like, “Thank you for your service;” however, I don’t know anyone that I served with who did it for a thank you, but it’s a nice compliment nonetheless.
I had grown accustomed to a culture where you did the things you were supposed to do and you didn’t expect anything extra for it. Sometimes, you got an extra three bucks a day if you did those things where somebody was shooting at you.
How hard can this parable be? You do what you are supposed to do because you are supposed to do it. This sounds like a virtue is its own reward sort of teaching. You don’t go looking for something extra for doing the very thing that you should have done in the first place.
C’mon Jesus, did you have to put this in a parable. A simple, JUST DO IT tee shirt would have been enough.
OK, it’s time for a little context.
Jesus had been teaching the crowds and his disciples. The Pharisees were always nearby but were not seeking confrontation at this juncture. Jesus taught about how much he valued the little children and about forgiving those who seek forgiveness time and time again.
Sometimes, you might have to rebuke your brother in Christ for sinning against you, but if he or she responded seeking forgiveness; there was no decision to make.
Jesus gave his followers a simplified decision matrix. If those who sinned against you ask for your forgiveness, you give it to them.
That’s not always as easy as it sounds here. Sometimes, people abuse that sort of latitude. That’s just tough stuff.
But we could do this, if we just had a little more faith. Jesus, increase our faith. Just give us some more faith and then maybe we can do the tough stuff.
If Jesus would just give us more faith, then we might be able to do the hard things. But Jesus said that if we had only an itsy-bitsy bit of faith, we could do incredible things.
If we just had the faith of a mustard seed—such a small seed—we could rearrange this planet. I’ve got a hedge on the north side of my house that has grown to the point that it is closer to the house than I would like it. I need to redo the outside of my house there. It would be a lot of work to dig it up and move it. I would really like to tell that hedge to pick itself up and move ten feet to the north or even just move over to the east side of my house where it won’t make much difference.
The disciples are asking for more faith. That means that they had some. They just wanted more. Increase our faith.
Then Jesus launched into this parable about a servant doing what was expected of him. When he came in from his day’s work, his master didn’t say, “Don’t worry about me. I’ll throw something in the microwave,”
The master tells his servants, “I’m hungry. Get out of those field clothes and put on your kitchen attire and serve me my dinner.” There’s nothing wrong with a please and a thank you. This is not a parable prohibiting politeness, but the servant is expected to do what servants do and to do it without thinking he is owed anything extra.
In fact, the servant’s mindset should be, I just did what I was supposed to do and I should be glad that I got to do it. I am blessed to have a master and a job and a place in this world.
The servant does not even consider asking his master for the evening off or something extra. He does what he knows to do. He does his duty and expects nothing extra.
The disciples wanted some extra faith, but didn’t understand that first they must do what they know to do. They first must put the commands of their Master into practice. They first must put the faith that they have into practice.
It’s first things first. There is a proper order to things.
Today’s world doesn’t get this and doesn’t want to get this. It’s a foreign mindset. People want what they want and they want it now. The words earn, save, patience, progress, promotion and others that might have been common in my formative years are inconvenient and take too long for the present generation.
I went to the Air Force Base in Altus to get some things for the funeral and to get a prescription filled at the base pharmacy. The man in front of me looked to be a few years older than men. The airman told him that he would have his prescription ready in ten minutes.
The man walked away complaining about waiting ten minutes. He was muttering that he thought he was through standing in line as he sat down in a comfortable chair and pouted.
Ten minutes? When did immediate gratification take over my generation? Maybe this parable is given in response to the request of the disciples who wanted Jesus to increase their faith. What if the increase in faith comes by doing that which we already know to do?
This is not a standalone parable as far as your relationship with God goes.
Yes, we are his servants, but we are also his friends. We are witnesses for him. We are his commissioned. We are God’s children. We are brothers and sisters with Christ. Our relationship with almighty God is multifaceted.
But we need to learn this lesson about faith in our role as a servant. We have each been given a measure of faith, but what will we do with it?
Are we looking for a mountain to move or a tree to uproot or are we doing the things that we know to do? Will we look to Jesus to give us more faith or will we take what we have and put it to work?
Will we grow our faith in our role as a servant of God? Without faith it is impossible to please God. What will we do with our faith? This is not rocket science. It is doing what we know to do. Such as:
Believe—With your heart, soul, mind, and everything that makes you who you are, believe that God loves you and that his great love sent his Son into the world to die and take away our sins. Believe that God raised him from the dead. Believe that God’s own Spirit lives within us. That sounds familiar.
Tithe—Give ten percent to God before everything else. Tithe means tenth. Put him first in this. This is perhaps the biggest truth-teller as to whether or not we are a friend of God or of the world. Remember that Jesus said if we put God and his kingdom first that he will gives us all those things that the ungodly world seeks after—has made into their gods. That sounds familiar too.
Pray—Daily with much time given to listening to what God has to say. Are we interested in what God has to say to us or do we just want our requests filled? Is God our vending machine or our friend? Again, this is sounding all too familiar.
Read—God’s holy word is alive and active. If you want God to be first in your life, put reading his word ahead of the newspaper or email or Facebook or whatever television series has you hooked. Wait a minute! These are the same things we talked about in determining if we were a friend of God or a friend of the world. Hey preacher! You can’t double dip like that.
Give—Give beyond the tithe of you time, talents, and treasure. It is all from God but will you use it exclusively to satisfy your personal desires or will you take that which has been given to you as a blessing and be a blessing to others.
Serve—In these parts we call this God’s love in action. Do something for someone because you love God. You may not like the person whom you help but you love God and will consummate his command to love one another.
Just hold your holy horses there, preacher! Last week you said that these were good truth tellers as to whether we were a friend of God or a friend of the world. Now, these are used to grow our faith. Which is it, truth teller or faith builder?
Do the things that we know to do and do them every day. We are not called to transplant trees or move mountains. We are called to do the things that we know to do consistently without expectation that we will receive something extra for doing what is expected of us.
How do we grow our faith? Do the things that we know to do. Do them again and again without having to be reminded and without expectation of something extra.
Every ministry of this church body that has flourished started small but was accompanied by steps of faith. Small steps taken in faith produced fruit. We just did what we knew to do.
As servants of our Lord, we should be content to do whatever he requires in response to the great love of God that we know as grace. We are saved from sin and death. We will not know the torment of hell or separation from God or even nonexistence.
We will never live a day without purpose. We are blessed to be called friend of God. We are loved beyond all measure. There is in store for us a crown of righteousness.
There is in store for us an inheritance stored up since the creation of the world.
Eye has not seen and ear has not heard and we really cannot imagine the things that God has in store for those who love him.
By his stripes we are healed!
Could we not live out this life as a very humble servant of our Lord? Would this not be a reasonable response to his favor and his grace?
Could we not do this without the expectation of anything extra? Would being the humble and obedient servant of God not be a reasonable response to grace?
The problem with studying this parable is that while we do humble ourselves as his servants; we know there is so much extra.
We are blessed and rewarded for our obedience. This world will scorn us but God himself will reward us.
We are numbered with the prophets when we are persecuted for his name. Nothing we do in his name is without profit.
We are known as his disciples when we love one another. Many Christians try to keep a low profile when it comes to their faith. They don’t want to go against the grain of society. They don’t want to be known as his disciples while they negotiate this life.
In the age to come, I can think of no better resume to bring with me than being known as a disciple of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I didn’t just know him. I followed him. I put the measure of faith I was given to work and followed Jesus.
And, it is by simple, humble, consistent obedience to his commands that our faith grows. Our faith increases when we do the things we know to do time and again.
I am going to give you another term for humble, obedient, faithful, consistent servant. Let’s go with a man or woman who loves God.
How do we love God back? Sometimes it is as simple as being humble and obedient. It’s not the stuff that we do so much as our love for our Master is manifested in humble obedience.
If you are looking for a tree to transplant or a mountain to move, start with loving your neighbor.
If you want to see your faith grow, give cheerfully and generously.
If you want more from your relationship with God, move towards him in prayer and Bible study and practicing what you know to do.
If you want to live in the right standing that came to you as a gift, be his humble servant every day.
It is a simple parable about humbly doing what we have been called to do as God’s servants; but this humble obedience and consistency and faith is what increases our faith.
We are blessed like no other people. We get to grow in grace. We can mess up and know that God will not discard us.
Our faith may seem like it has not grown. I talk with people all the time who seem to feel like their faith is stagnant; but the measure of faith that God has given to you remains ready to grow.
Let’s not ask God for more faith. Let’s take the faith that he has measured to each of us and humbly and obediently put it to work. Let us do the things that we know we should do, do them humbly, and do them consistently.
Our faith will grow in our humility and obedience to God.