Useless servants

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14 November 2017

‘So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, “We are useless servants: we have done no more than our duty.” ‘

Whoa, seems a little harsh.

You’ve been out ploughing the paddocks by hand to prepare them for sowing (no tractor). You’ve been chasing the sheep around to get them to safe pasture (no sheepdog). You’re tired and dusty and in need of a shower and a meal, but your boss wants you to get a bottle of Shiraz from the cellar, make a good dinner for him and then wait on him while he takes his time eating and drinking to his heart’s content. Then, when you’re feeling the most hungry and exhausted, you are to utter the words “We are useless servants: we have done no more than our duty.”

Why these very challenging words from Jesus to some of his closest friends?

Remember that when trying to understand the Scriptures, context matters.

Today’s Gospel comes right after the saying of Jesus, in response to the request of the apostles to “increase our faith”, that if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can command a mulberry tree to be uprooted and to plant itself in the sea. It is followed by the story of Jesus healing not one, but ten lepers.

In other words, the context of the stern command of Jesus to his followers to consider themselves unworthy servants who are only doing their duty is the ministry of the power of the Kingdom of God through the exercise of faith. These are the same apostles to whom, just a few chapters earlier, Jesus gave power and authority to drive out all demons and cure diseases as He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God (Luke 9.1-2). Here in chapter 17, He reminds them that the immense power they carry is released through the exercise of faith, and then makes crystal clear what the mindset of one who carries power must always be: I AM ONLY A SERVANT.

There is no room for big headedness. It is an immense privilege to be an instrument of the power and love of God for others. Realise what you carry, get your heart in the right place and set yourself to serve. That’s pretty encouraging after all.

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