Luke 17:5-10

This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on October 2nd, 2016.

gratitudeI got married a little over a year ago and I have been doing the dishes, laundry, making the bed, and taking the dog out just as long.  My reasoning behind choosing to be in charge of these tasks in our house was, “I am going to do these things to make my wife’s life easier.  I am going to work hard for her and show her that I am the type of man who will serve his wife continuously.”  However, I would be lying if on the inside I didn’t somewhat expect my wife to put together a video compilation of my Top 10 Plays of My Husband – “There’s Dan cleaning the dishes he ate off of the night before!  There’s Dan washing his clothes along with his wife’s because he’s out of socks!  There’s Dan making the bed he slept in!  There’s Dan walking the dog that he wanted to get in the first place!”

My initial reasoning behind doing these tasks was to serve my wife, but over time I started to expect some sort of praise.  Over time, doing these tasks again and again became mundane, and without consistent gratitude it became easier and easier to neglect these duties.

The disciples say to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” following the command “if he [your brother] sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”  It’s not a terrible task to forgive someone who has lied to you one time.  It’s really not that hard to forgive someone who has told you two lies in one day.  But what about the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, or even seventh time in the same day?  To add to that, what if that level of forgiveness required to give renewed itself the next day?  How quickly would we start to expect some praise for showing forgiveness to someone?
The disciples realize how difficult this continual dispensing of forgiveness will be and seem to think that “more faith” will be required to pull off such a command.  Considering this appeal for more faith comes after the disciples witnessed the feeding of 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, this command must seem near impossible with the amount of faith they possess.

Jesus’ reply to the disciples is obviously staggering because of the small size of a mustard seed, but the point that he is making is that the disciples have their focus on the wrong thing.  Faith is not a resource of which one can acquire more.  When Jesus refers to people of great faith, we see acts committed “in faith” that tend to be simple and not extremely noteworthy, such as the men lowering a paralytic through the roof (Luke 5:20), the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7:50), and the hemorrhaging woman (Luke 8:48).  Through this illustration of a mustard see in 17:6, we see Jesus telling his disciples that an amount of faith is not as important as simply faith being present.  The presence of faith is what brings people into fellowship with Jesus himself and allows them to live into the grace filled life that he is willing to give.

Jesus never expects his disciples to have a faith so large that it will be seen as something easy to acquire and possess (Jesus even said in verse 17:1 – “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come…”).  Here, he is not asking us to accomplish things far above our expectations or ability.  He is telling us that faith even as small as a mustard seed is capable of accomplishing even the hardest of tasks.  Restoration only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit.  As a laborer for God, my job is to relentlessly forgive a person who has repented of their sins and welcome them back into a community that has faith that God will restore that person.  But how easy is it to continually forgive someone such as a kleptomaniac?  How many times must I forgive that person, and how much faith would it require to continually forgive that person before I begin to see myself as naïve or as an enabler to that type of behavior?  As we consider this scenario, as Christians we weigh two options: 1) act on reason – telling this person that their second chances have been exhausted, and in order to maintain our faith and dignity we must cut our loses and relationship ties, or 2) act on faith – continuing to forgive this person, firmly believing that what our Master has commanded of us is sufficient for being a good and faithful servant providing what is needed for restoration to occur.  In a situation like this, since faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a tree, I wonder if I would need faith the size of an acorn to continually forgive someone for committing the same negative act against someone I love.

As a slave plowing and tending sheep, our job is not done when we forgive a person one time.  More is required of us and few people will give us praise when we have done it four times already.  The Master in this parable may seem ungrateful (let’s be real – the slave had just plowed a field and/or tended the flock, both quite strenuous activities), but that is not the limit of what is expected.  I am not my wife’s slave, but if she were to ask me to take the trash out, clean the bathroom, and go pick up groceries – she would not congratulate me or be pleased with me if I only took out the trash.

As people who profess Christ as the Savior of the world, we fail to live faithfully to him if we believe that it is naïve to continually forgive someone who has repented.  We are called to believe that these types of actions, that these displays of compassion, hospitality, and grace are not just our duty but our obligation to give to the world without expectation of praise.



resized_screenshot_20161005-154814Daniel Venzin
Minister to Students and Recreation
First Baptist Church, Lufkin, TX




Tags: forgiveness, hospitality, gratitude

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