Graced Service

This coming Sunday is the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time. In yesterday’s post we considered the nature of faith and what Jesus was asking of his disciples: understanding that faith allows God to work in a person’s life in ways that defy ordinary human experience. In today’s post we consider what that right understanding of faith will allow the disciples to do.

“Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 8 Would he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat. Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink. You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 9 Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So should it be with you. When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

This parable presents an opposite picture of the master and slaves given in Luke 12:37. There the master has been out traveling and when he returns home, he has the slaves sit down to eat and he serves them. There one hears the theme of the great reversals so prevalent in that portion of Luke. Here, Alan Culpepper expresses the meaning of this parable very succinctly: “The disciples can do what God requires – through faith – but disciples never do more than is required” (324).

Joel Green (The Gospel of Luke) writes about this word:

In this script, “thanks” would not refer to a verbal expression of gratitude or social politeness, but to placing the master in debt to the slave. In the master-slave relationship, does the master come to owe the slave special privileges because the slave fulfills his daily duties? Does the slave, through fulfilling his ordinary duties to the master, become his master’s patron? Of course not! Similarly, “worthless slaves” (v. 10) refers to slaves to whom no favor is due (and not to uselessness). [p. 614]

If the apostles have the increased faith, letting God work through them, they can do what is expected of them: stand up to temptations, not causing temptations, rebuking and forgiving those who have sinned against them, repenting of their own misdeeds. Still they have only done what’s expected of them. They shouldn’t expect any special favors from God for being such a good Christian. With such an attitude one would well count themselves among the little ones, and truly understand what it is to be a servant of God.

Culpepper continues his reflection:

Nevertheless, God owes us nothing for living good, Christian, lives. God’s favor and blessing are matters of grace — they cannot be earned. Therefore, when we assume that we can deal with God on the basis of what God owes us, we have made a basic mistake. We have rejected grace as the basis of our relationship to God and based that relationship on our own worth and merit. Grace, by definition, is a free gift. [pp. 323-324]

Image credit: G Corrigan, CC-BY-NC 2.0

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