‘Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Won’t he rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”’ Luke 17.7-10
We all like to be thanked! When we have gone out of our way to help someone, or when we have given something that has cost us, a sincere ‘thank you’ makes everything worthwhile. So given this, these words from Jesus can seem a bit like a slap in the face! He seems to be saying – you’ve only done your duty so why do you expect to be thanked?
As with every recorded word of Jesus, we have his words but not the expression on his face as he spoke. Did he say the words in today’s passage sternly, or was he acting out the story with a smile on his face trying to make a point? Just before these verses, the topic was to do with forgiveness and faith; the importance of putting our faith into practice. I wonder if Jesus was trying to get across the fact that we should not think of forgiving others and demonstrating faith as a big deal, actions that deserve God’s profuse thanks. Instead, they should be sewn into our normal life-style and flow naturally from us.
The challenge for us is whether forgiving others and demonstrating faith do flow naturally? Someone once said that forgiveness should be as natural as breathing and practised with as much frequency. Others have suggested that our lives should be ‘naturally supernatural’. It’s not as if we are doing God a favour, but rather we are simply living the life to which he has called us.
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The Revd John Ryeland, Director of The Christian Healing Mission
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