Think About That!

When Jesus told parables, he used them to prod and provoke thinking. The parable in today’s blog has created a number of different interpretations, as people seek to understand Jesus’ message.

Luke 17.7-10“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’?

“Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’?

“Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded?

“So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”

Worm Theology

You may be familiar with the hymn by Isaac Watts that begins with this refrain:

Alas, and did my Savior bleed?
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?

Should we think of ourselves as “unworthy servant,” who are little more than a “worm” in comparison with the greatness of God?

When we consider the expanse of the heavens and the role of our Creator, we are indeed small in comparison to his greatness.

The humility that is expressed in Watts’ hymn is appropriate.

Humble faith and obedience is in keeping with God’s magnificent greatness.

With that being noted, is what has sometimes been called “worm theology” a good interpretation of this parable?

It Isn’t Fair!

When we measure the parable with our belief in individual rights, the response of the master seems unfair to his servant.

The servant has worked the day in the fields, only to come home and prepare a meal for the master. The master doesn’t thank the servant and the servant sees themselves as a “worthless slave.”

If that the way God relates to his servants?

How does this parable compare to Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John?

John 15.14-15 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.

“I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

If you read how Jesus interacted with his disciples and statements like the one in John 15, you realize quickly the love and respect Jesus has for his followers.

At the same time, we are mistaken if we approach him as “Pal Jesus.”

At the Last Supper, John was close enough to Jesus that he could ask him a personal question (John 13.23-24).

When John saw the risen Jesus, he described the experience: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1.17).

The parable in Luke 17 reminds us that Jesus is the Master and we are the servant, even though we have been granted a friendship relationship.

Joel Green’s Interpretation

Joel Green has written an excellent commentary on the Gospel of Luke. I think Dr. Green provides some excellent insights into this parable.

No Thanks – We are taught to say “please and thank you” from childhood as a common courtesy.

The lack of thanks in the parable is different from expressions of appreciation in our day.

The “thanks” of the parable involves a reversal of roles. It places the master in the debt of the servant.

The servant becomes the patron of the master with the master becoming the lesser of the two.

In the language of today, there is nothing a person can do to put Jesus in a role of owing us anything. Everything we receive from Jesus is an act of his grace.

Worthless Slave – We are not “worthless” in the sense of having no value.

In fact, we are so valuable that God gave his only Son for our salvation (John 3.16).

We are children of God, co-laborers with Jesus, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

At the same time, we are servants and Jesus is the Master.

Jesus is the model of servanthood. Forty-seven times in the Gospel of John, Jesus declared his complete dependence on the Father.

John 5.19 “Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

We all would agree that Jesus lived the most authentic life of any Person to walk the face of the earth. He lived it as a serving-partner of the Father.

If it was good enough for Jesus, it should be good for us, too.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I discuss this parable in today’s YouTube video. Rudy adds insights from being a long-time business owner to an understanding of the parable.

The video is on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.

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