Duty

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.

“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.

“Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 17:1–10)

The apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith. He told them they already had enough. Even the smallest amount was enough to throw mountains into the sea—that is, to forgive those who had sinned against them over and over again, just as God forgave us and put our sins in the deepest ocean (Micah 7:19).

Jesus then countered the notion that God somehow owes us anything. Sometimes, when people suffer, they list all the things they’ve done for God and demand to know how they could possibly deserve their pain. Others may try to bargain with God, promising more church attendance or Bible reading if only he’ll fix their problem. With his parable of the master and his servants, Jesus pointed out that such bargaining or resentment is wrong.

Jesus died for our sins when we were still his enemies. We have done nothing and can do nothing to make ourselves worthy of his salvation. We remain always unworthy of God’s love that he has lavished on us. At best, we merely do our duty. We never do anything worthy of praise. As Paul said, we have nothing to boast about except for the cross of Christ (Galatians 6:14).

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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