9 November 2010

Luke 17:7-10

"Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?" (v.9)


In this today's passage Jesus describes how a man's slave who has been working all day ploughing, or looking after sheep, does not receive any special reward from his master. When he comes in from a day's work he has to wait on his master before he can rest. The slave who does his duty is not entitled to a reward. 

What does Jesus mean by this? Some might be shocked to hear him taking about slavery in this way…

When Jesus told parables (stories with meanings) to his friends and the gathered crowds he used scenarios that would be very familiar to them. Slavery was a common feature of life in 1st century Palestine and those listening would naturally agree with Jesus when he said that a slave wouldn't receive any reward for simply doing his duty. Likewise, when a disciple has done all that God has asked, the disciple has no claim upon God.

The Pharisees (the teachers of the Jewish Law) taught that good works were rewarded by God. The more you do, the greater the reward. But Jesus appears to be saying this is not the case. You cannot put God in your debt. It is true that God rewards people for their faithfulness, but what is wrong is the attitude that seeks reward and thinks that it can lay claim upon God.

To Ponder

In light of the above, to what extent are good works important?

Do you ever put God in your debt?

Could this teaching of Jesus be seen as a warning to those in the Church who think that their service somehow entitles them to some sort of reward? What might be the reason for this?

Bible notes author

The Revd Richard Teal

Richard Teal is a Methodist minister currently serving as chair of the Cumbria Methodist District. He has a deep interest in ecumenical relationships, Church growth and liturgy.