Luke 17:1-10 Forgiveness, Faith, and Obedience

Temptations to Sin

17:1 And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin [1] are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. [2] 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Increase Our Faith

5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

Unworthy Servants

7 “Will any one of you who has a servant [3] plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 8 Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, [4] and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; [5] we have only done what was our duty.’”

  • Humility.  This is the common thread that connects the sayings in this passage.  All true servants of Jesus Christ must learn humility.
  • Consider the warning about tripping people up.  “The little ones” may refer to the outcasts from the previous two chapters that Jesus was welcoming but whom the Pharisees were rejecting.
  • We will all be tested.  We will all face temptation.  Our faith will be tested, perhaps beyond what we can bear.  But we should be careful not to inflict such a test on someone else.  Consider the consequence.  When Jesus says it would be better to drown at the bottom of the sea with a large stone tied around your neck then face the punishment reserved for those who cause people to struggle in their faith.  It can’t be good.  This is a serious warning.
  • “Christian leaders and teachers need this warning on a regular basis.  It is possible for them to do and say things which make others think, ‘Well if that’s how God’s representatives behave, I suppose the whole things a waste of time!’  How can you avoid putting someone in that situation? Humility.” N.T. Wright
  • Now look at the call to repeated forgiveness.  To forgive someone once or twice is easy.  But to continually have to forgive someone over and over again can be quite challenging.  Why continue to forgive if the one forgiven keeps abusing your kindness?
  • Again the answer is humility.  To forgive someone is to become their servant, not their master.  It shouldn’t be harder and harder to forgive each time.  How often do we blow it and require God’s forgiveness?  All the time.  Does God struggle with forgiveness?  No!!!  This is the true source of humility.  God’s grace.  We must consider the amazing grace that God has demonstrated to us when we struggle to forgive others.
  • Of course the disciples realize that what Jesus is saying will require a lot of faith.  “Jesus is quick to respond.  It’s not great faith you need; it is faith in a great God.” N.T. Wright  This faith requires humility.  We are weak, God is strong.
  • “Finally, the shocking lesson that all we do, even the hard work we do for God, never for a moment puts God in our debt.” N.T. Wright  I am only a servant doing my duty.  When we serve God, we do it out of gratitude and not out of selfish ambition.  We should not desire to be acknowledged or praised before men but we should be content knowing that we will be acknowledged by God when the time comes.  Once again this requires great humility.
  • How humble am I?  This is not an easy question to answer.  The moment I say I am humble is the moment I am no longer really humble.   But am I causing others to stumble in their faith?  Am I struggling to forgive?  Do I have a little faith in a great and mighty God?  Do I have the heart of a servant?  These questions I can answer.
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