Sermon: Slaves by Birth, Sons by New Birth (Luke 17:7-10)

Luke 17.7-10 Click for Audio

Slaves by Birth, Sons by New Birth

Luke 17:7-10

Introduction
Last week, we learned about life in the community of God, the church.  We learned that as disciples, we are not to be the cause of someone else’s sin.  When someone sins against us we are to act biblically; we are to rebuke them and if they repent, quickly forgive.
The disciples knew that if they were going to be consistently faithful in this command from our Lord then they were going to need some supernatural aid.  They asked that Jesus would increase their faith to make them worthy of such a difficult task.  Jesus told them that they didn’t necessarily need more faith, but diligently use the faith they already possessed.  A working faith produces diligent service unto God.  True faithfulness will place the disciple in a relationship with God where the disciple begins to accomplish what he was created to do, namely, bring glory to God through service to God and others.
The disciple’s life is lived in community with others and God. Be careful not to lead others into sin, Jesus says. When sin occurs, rebuke it, but be quick to forgive when there is repentance. Don’t worry about having great faith; just let the faith you have do its surprising work. Finally, serve God as a matter of duty. If you trust God, you can serve him.[1]

What should a disciple expect as he or she serves the Lord faithfully?  What should our attitude be as we render consistent service to Christ?

Jesus shows us in this parable what our perspective should be when we serve God and others in the community of faith, the Church.

Jesus teaches us the proper attitude of a servant of God as He tells us about a landowner who has a small farm and one faithful servant.

This is God’s Word for Grace Community Church today:

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 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; we have only done what was our duty.’ ” [2]

What does God owe you and what do you owe God?  The answer we give to these questions shows what sort of relationship we have with Jesus Christ. [3]

1. A Servant…Serves (Luke 17:7-8)

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?

A servant serves his master.  A slave performs his daily duties without question and without getting anything extra from the master.  The master does not owe the slave extra because he did what was his duty to do.

For us the concept of master/slave relationship seems very foreign.  If we’re not careful here, we might just miss this rich parable Jesus tells us.

First, we should understand the word in our Bibles translated as “servant”.  In the original language this is doulon from the Greek word doulos meaning slave or bondservant.  This is not a hired worker but a simple slave.  A slave has no rights and no property.  The slave’s value is found only in the work he performs for the one who owns him.  A slave works and has no rights.

Whether this master/slave relationship is right or wrong is not the issue.  Jesus uses this picture to explain a much deeper spiritual truth to His followers.

In ancient society and even in some places today being a slave is to be a part of the very bottom of the social ladder in society.  To be a slave in the physical realm is to be low in the social order.

With this in mind, Jesus’ story is basically a story of a single slave working for a master on a small farm.  The slave works very hard every day.  He bares the heat of the day out in the fields and then washes and prepares and serves dinner for the master.

2. The Master is not Indebted to the Servant (Luke 17:9)

 Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?

His story has a section where He pictures something very absurd.  He pictures the master asking his servant to be seated and starts serving him because he had worked so hard out in the field.

It would be a little like…

Imagine going out for dinner and hearing the waiter say, You know, I’ve been working hard all night, and I’m a terrific waitress, and I’m really hungry right now, and I think I’ll sit down with you folks and eat some of your shrimp Alfredo.[4]  Oh, and could you get me a refill?

This waiter might be the best waiter in the world.  He might go over and above his expected duties but he cannot sit down with the family and ask them to pass the applesauce because he’s not a part of the family but the servant to the family.

The point Jesus is making is that the Master does not owe the slave any favors or special treatment because the slave does what he’s told to do.  A slave who serves well does not have the right to be treated as if he is part of the family he is still a slave.

The role of the slave is to serve the Master… Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink.

The Master does not owe the servant anything for simply serving like he’s supposed to.

Many people think that because they serve God, they’re racking up brownie points or some sort of employee of the month status that will earn them special treatment with God.  Many think that if they do their duty in serving God then it’s His duty to reward them.  This way of thinking is wrong.  God never owes us anything…He doesn’t owe us forgiveness, salvation, heaven, or anything else.  He is the Master and we are the slaves.  A slave works and does his job because the Master has commanded him to do so and this in no way entitles him to anything that belongs to the Master.

Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?

It’s important to look at another Greek word to gather the full meaning of the text.  Jesus asks the question, Does the Master thank the servant because the servant did everything he was commanded?  The word thank comes from the word charis, which is where we get the word grace.  What’s Jesus getting at here?  Does the Master owe the servant grace because of his service?  Answer is no.  The servant is still a servant no matter the extent of the service and the Master is not in any way obligated to extend grace or favor to the slave.  A slave cannot become a son based on hard work.

3. Unworthy Servants (Luke 17:10)

10 So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ ” [5]

The stark reality that we must get into our self-righteous head is that on our very best day, we are still unworthy servants and God owes us nothing.

The truth is, God does not owe us anything.  If this sounds harsh then it is because of our self-righteous pride we think we’ve really down something for God.  In fact, we may secretly hope that the good things we do will gain us some kind of leverage with the Almighty.  But even if we did everything He ever wanted us to do—even then we would have only done our duty.  We should not think, therefore, that we have merited any favor or grace with God.

The religious leaders of Israel felt that God owed them because of their service to Him.  Jesus wanted to make sure His disciples were not serving God with the attitude that doing something in service to God would somehow merit them God’s favor.

We are unworthy because on our best day we’ve only done what was our duty.   What does “unworthy” mean?  It means that at best unprofitable or break even.  Unworthy is to do only what is expected.  The truth is, for all of us, we are worse than unworthy.  We are worse than unworthy because on our best day we simply do what God expects but what about all the other days?

So, the issue very quickly surfaces, if we cannot even rise to the position of being an unworthy servant, then how will we ever be accepted by God?  How will He ever show us the grace we need so desperately?  If it can’t be earned and we are not worthy to receive it, how is it possible to get it?

To answer this question, I want us to go back to the parable of the Prodigal Son.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. [6]

Notice that the Son is not a slave.  The lost son says, How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.

The son’s solution, after he came to himself, was to leave the family table and become a slave.  The problem was, he wasn’t a slave but a son.  He reasoned that because of his sin and because he wasted all his Father’s money that he was no longer a son.  Regardless, what he did, his identity would always be his Father’s son.

Even though the son is not worthy to be called a son, he is still his Father’s son.  He hasn’t been acting like a son but nevertheless he still is a son.

The Father still acts like the Father and receives his lost son back.

The issue for us is, if a slave is a slave and a son, a son then how do we get from being a slave to being a son?  Jesus tells us in this parable that we don’t earn grace by being hard working slaves.  How is it that a servant could be welcomed into the dining room of the great banquet feast and sit down at the table not as a slave who has no claim to the family of God, but as a son who rightfully has a place in the family?

4. A Son…Feasts (Selected Verses)

In a perfect word and on our absolute best day we are unprofitable and unworthy servants.  The sad truth is also that 99.9% of our servant experience has not even lived up to the status of unworthy servants.  We are to serve and love serving God.  However, serving God will not make us sons and daughters even on our best day.

Our text today shows us clearly that our status as slaves is fixed.  A human cannot change his status, just as a man cannot change the color of his skin or a leopard its spots.

Because no amount of hard work will gain us one ounce of grace then we are dependent on God making the switch.

In our parable today, Jesus shows us the normal master slave relationship.  However, God doesn’t act like the master in this parable He makes the change He takes the initiative.  As absurd as it sounds for a master to serve the slave, that is exactly what Jesus did for us.  Jesus came to this wicked world not to be served (which was His right as the Son of God), but to serve.

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [7]

It was the life and death of Jesus Christ that made this absurdity a wonderful reality for us.  He served and we were invited into the house as sons.

Do you see the wonderful, amazing grace that God extends to sinners?

Do you see the generosity of Christ?  He extends grace that is unearned and completely undeserved.  He gives it without the least bit of merit on our part.  He gives it because it is His to give.  He gives it because the Father has given Him an inheritance among the nations…a people set apart for glory and grace.

Since many have been made sons and daughters through the grace of God given in Christ, God’s house will be full.

Jesus Christ came and gave His life to pay the ransom for many.  Many are made sons and daughters.  Many are saved by the death of Christ.  Not all.

Here we approach a wonderful truth.  All whom God gives the Son become sons and daughters.  It is the cross that saves and creates sons from slaves.

It’s so important that we understand that the cross doesn’t make salvation possible.  If the cross only made salvation possible then no one would be saved because it places salvation in the hands of slaves who cannot decide to be sons.  A slave is a slave until God makes him a son.  Through the wonderful grace of God, slaves are made sons.  The cross saves sinners it doesn’t make it possible to be saved.  The many in Mark 10 is every slave made a son.  The exact number God chooses to save.  The exact number, no more and no less.  All whom God gives the Son will come to the Son seeking God’s family.

So, we serve as beloved children in the house who have certain responsibilities not as slaves.  We have entered into the house of God by grace through faith and not of works.

Serve diligently as sons and daughters, not earning favor but because through Christ we are favored.


[1] Darrell Bock on Luke

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:7–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] Philip Ryken on Luke

[4] Philip Ryken on Luke

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 17:7–10). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Lk 15:17–24). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Mk 10:42–45). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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