Sunday, June 12, 2022

The Parable of the Master & the Servant: Humility increases Faith

“William Beebe, the naturalist, used to tell this story about Teddy Roosevelt. At Sagamore Hill, after an evening of talk, the two would go out on the lawn and search the skies for a certain spot of star-like light near the lower left-hand corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Then Roosevelt would recite: "That is
the Spiral Galaxy in Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It consists of one hundred billion suns, each larger than our sun."

Then Roosevelt would grin and say, "Now I think we are small enough! Let's go to bed." -Source Unknown.

And the Apostle Paul said

“I am the least of the apostles. 1 Corinthians 15:9

I am the very least of all the saints. Ephesians 3:8

I am the foremost of sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

At his three descriptions of himself, dating respectively from around A.D. 59, 63, and 64. As the years pass he goes lower; he grows downward! And as his self-esteem sinks, so his rapture of praise and adoration for the God who so wonderfully saved him rises.

Undoubtedly, learning to praise God at all times for all that is good is a mark that we are growing in grace. One of my predecessors in my first parochial appointment died exceedingly painfully of cancer. But between fearful bouts of agony, in which he had to stuff his mouth with bedclothes to avoid biting his tongue, he would say aloud over and over again: "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth" (Ps. 34:1). That was a passion for praise asserting itself in the most poignant extremity imaginable.

Cultivate humility and a passion for praise if you want to grow in grace.” -James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.

Today we examine the parable of the master and the servant. We keep getting all these fascinating angles on how God sees truth, and how God’s kingdom operates. Today we find an incredibly important aspect of the kingdom of God.

But first let’s consider the context of this parable today. The context was difficult for me, because normally surrounding a particular portion of scripture you’ll see various elements that seem to tie into the general theme of what’s going on here.

But in this parable, at first you might think, how does any of this connect? This parable we only find in Luke’s gospel, it’s in Luke chapter 17, if you want to turn there in your Bibles. Just prior in Luke 16, Jesus had just shared the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, a parable of an arrogant rich man who refused to help a poor man who laid homeless near his house, and later ended up in torment in hell over it.

Then in chapter 17, first Jesus talks about how important it is to not cause children to stumble into sin, and to not tempt others into sin. And talks about the terrible punishment for those who tempt others to sin.

Then Jesus gives us an example of how often to forgive someone who comes to us and repents. He says even if they come 7 times in one day having sinned, then repenting honestly to you, you must forgive them. And one side note, I’ve always taking that to be true in our relationship with God. If we sin 7 times in one day, and keep coming to God honestly seeking his forgiveness and repenting he will forgive us over and over and over. Isn’t that wonderful? Now, that’s not an excuse to live in sin either. Repent quickly.

In any case, let’s take a look at the context. It says in Luke 17, “One day Jesus said to his disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting! 2 It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. 3 So watch yourselves!”

So Jesus tells us, watch yourself. Be careful what you say to others. Be careful what you post on social media. Be careful about your actions, and how they speak to others. Then he continues:

“If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. 4 Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.”

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith.”

6 The Lord answered, “If you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘May you be uprooted and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you!”

So reading that I’m thinking to myself, wow what a mish-mash of different thoughts all kind of gathered together. First you have Jesus talking about temptation to sin and that it will always be that way, but don’t be one through whom it comes. Then we’re told that if a believer sins against us, we should forgive them, many times in the same day even, then the apostles ask Jesus, “Show us how to increase our faith.”

That’s a great question isn’t it. How can we have greater faith? Is faith something that can grow? I certainly think so. Some would say we’re appointed a certain level of faith and it’s just stuck like that, I don’t believe that, and neither did the disciples, when they asked Jesus, show us how to increase our faith.

And Jesus first comments to this question, that even with a tiny amount of faith you can pray something, believe it will happen, and then it will literally happen right in front of your eyes.

And it’s interesting that he says a mulberry tree would be uprooted and planted in the sea, because just a few verses earlier he talks about a person who causes others to be tempted that they would be uprooted in the next life and tossed into the depths of the sea with a millstone around their neck. What’s the connection there? A word for mulberry in Hebrew actually means “to weep.” Something to think about.

But then he shares this really interesting parable, as a response it seems, to the question, how can we have greater faith? And what a strange way to respond to such a question. You think Jesus might tell some parable about a man who wasn’t very faithful, but then something happens inside him to make him more faithful. But Jesus doesn’t do that. Instead he tells this parable, take a look, it says:

Luke 17:7-10 (NLT) “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? 8 No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ 9 And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty.’”

Now when I first read this parable what comes to mind is that Jesus is challenging us to be very humble as we serve Him. We have to remember that we are servants of God.

And that is our question today, to reflect on during the message: Is there pride hidden in my life?

But we’re children of God, we’re princes and princesses of the kingdom of God, yes that’s true, but while we pilgrimage through this life, we’re to live like Jesus. Was Jesus treated like the King he is while he was on Earth? Not at all. And he didn’t seek that. Jesus constantly served people. And he constantly served God the Father on the Earth. That is your calling.

Yes, you’re a prince or princess of God’s kingdom, but remember your role right now on the Earth you are a servant.

In times of war in medieval times, sometimes a wise king, would be on his throne, surrounded by counselors and leaders, in fine clothes, with fine food, but he would step down, and put on common rags, and a disguise, dirty himself, and go walk among the common people, and listen to what they are saying about him, the country, and the various wars going on. It’s similar for you and I.

We are royalty in Christ, but in this world, we are not treated like royalty, we are treated like nobodies. So get your hands muddy, and your feet dirty, and when you do something for God don’t expect to get some big high five from God. Instead say to God, I was just doing my duty, you are Lord, we are your servants.

So very good, we’re talking about humility today. That’s of great value. But I have to ask myself, how does this relate to increasing our faith?

And it really truly does. It really does. Because without faith it is impossible to please God. And what faith do we have if we see ourselves as equal to our master? We are not equal to our master in any way whatsoever. He is God. We our humans. We are made in His image yes it’s true, but we’re so incredibly different than God. A similar difference to say, you and your dog or cat. Or the difference between myself and a mouse or ant. The difference is massive in intellect, thought, concept of life, and goals.

And if we start to get arrogant and prideful, thinking we know best, we start to argue with God, we start to battle him, and push for our own way, and less and less we live by faith, and instead live by self-rule.

How do we have great faith? We constantly stay humble and meek, and this constantly reminds us of our total dependence on God. And what is faith? It’s trust, it’s leaning on, it’s hope in, it’s placing faith in God. And how could we ever do that if we’re prideful? And even if we’re just a little prideful, already, faith is being transferred away from God, and onto ourselves and our talents and abilities. Wow.

Jesus’ parable is the perfect answer to how to build our faith in God. It’s to realize we are unworthy servants, to wait on God as God sits at the table, hand and foot, and at the end of the day, we can smile and say, it’s just my job, I’ve done my duty. Nothing more.

And this equation of humility, forces all our trust and faith on God, more and more faith grows out of that humility, to realize, I’m not special, I’m not some hero, I’m a humble servant, waiting on my infinite master who takes care of everything, as I do the footwork.

So briefly, let’s take a look at a few action steps.

1. Pray on your knees / on the floor

2. Give God all the glory for achievements

3. Admit when you’re wrong

4. Confess your sins to one another

5. When discovering pride bring it to God

6. Renounce pride when it appears

7. Reflect on the glories of God and your own limited nature

And we know that for each of us as servants of the living God, it is always required of a servant who has been given stewardship over something, to be found faithful. That’s from 1st Cor 4:2, and Paul is talking about ministry leaders, so that refers largely to me, but isn’t it true that we all have areas of concern where God has given us stewardship? If we have children, we are stewards over them. If we work, we have certain responsibilities. So I believe it’s fair to say we all must show ourselves faithful in what God has given us stewardship over.

The final evaluation of that stewardship will happen on the day of the Lord, what we consider judgment day, when every person will be judged before God.

And I know for every single person I’ve ministered to, God will evaluate what I taught them, to see if I taught the full gospel, to see if I left anything out or twisted God’s word to suite my own opinions. Lord, have mercy. Similarly, God will evaluate your life, to see if you really trusted in Jesus Christ, and not self, to see if you lived a poured out, humble life, and not a life of pride.

So then, God willing, on that glorious day, we will be greeted with a great smile from ear to ear of our savior Jesus the king when he says to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That is what I want to hear on that precious day. And I dread, and plan, and faithfully trust in Christ, and live a poured out life, so I may never hear the words, “Depart from me you worker of lawlessness, I never knew you.” Lord, have mercy on us, and build our lives in humility and faith and reliance on you, so we may all hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Upon reflection, we can see how everything fits together from the end of chapter 16 and into chapter 17.  In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich's man was prideful and thus had no faith. This faithlessness led him to hell. 

Tempting others to sin comes from pride and destroys faith, because once one gives in to sin, they drift away from faith and into pride. Yet Jesus also reminds us, one can always be forgiven and brought to repentance, even seven times a day, so there is always hope. Even faith as little as a mustard seed yields massive results. Though the prideful be tossed into the sea with a stone attached to their neck, still pride can be tossed out with faith and thrown into the sea just as easily, even with something as small as mustard sized faith. 

Bringing it all together Jesus tells the parable of the master and servant, indicating how to guard against pride, by regarding oneself from a humble perspective. It all fit together after all.