2 October 2016

Luke 17:5-10

“Increase our faith” (v. 5)

Psalm: Psalm 37:1-19


The Apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." Jesus, instead of referring back to the Scriptures which would be familiar to them, or giving them a straight answer explaining to them how they can receive more faith, reminds them in a very human way of the life of a servant. Speaking of the environment where they were living he tells how the servant or the slave comes in from the field, and still has to complete their day's work in the household before they can rest and yet does not expect to receive any reward other than the remuneration they get, probably bed and board, for all their hard work. The performance of their duties does not entitle them to a reward, so it will be for the disciples - when they have done all the tasks which God has put before them, their only reward will be that they will have done God's will.

As in much of this part of Luke's Gospel the words can be seen as having something of a hidden agenda. As well as telling the disciples how it is, it is also something of an attack on the Jewish attitude especially that of the Pharisees. Their theological position is that if a person performs good works in the name of God it will constitute a claim upon God for due reward. Jesus turns this on its head and is reminds the disciples that human beings cannot put God in their debt. This does not mean however that God does not reward faithful people, for example Jesus says that those who are dressed and ready for action when the master comes will be blessed (Luke 12:35-38). It is the attitude that is wrong, where the person concerns looks for reward for their actions. The disciples have been travelling with Jesus for some time and have been reminded of their calling to follow him. The time is coming, although they do not know it, when they will be expected to continue his work without him. The reminder of their servanthood encourages them to continue the work out of loyalty to him without expecting any reward other than knowing they had been dutiful in the task.

The prayer of St Ignatius of Loyola spells it:

Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labour and not to ask for any reward,
save that of knowing that we do your will.

To Ponder

  • When we are called to follow Jesus where are we to follow him to? The church? The world? Or both?
  • Are we ever guilty of seeking reward for the work we have done either in the church or in charitable or mission activity outside of the church?
  • Do we ever seek to serve in the way we are called upon to do in our own strength without the help of the Holy Spirit?
  • Pray the prayer of St Ignatius today.

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.