Lord, increase my faith (5).
Read Luke 17:1–10
Sin, Faith, Duty
17 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.
“If your brother or sister[a] sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 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.
7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 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.’”
a Luke 17:3 The Greek word for brother or sister (adelphos) refers here to a fellow disciple, whether man or woman.
New International Version (NIV)
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ReflectHave you ever had a “stumbling block” to your faith?
Today’s verses might appear at first to be a collection of random teachings. However, Luke has said from the outset (1:1–4) that he was giving an orderly, well-thought-out account.
The context is still that of Jesus talking to the disciples (1) with the Pharisees eavesdropping (16:14). Some commentators think that the “stumbling block” could well refer to the Pharisees and their teachings (1). If it’s the unbeliever who entices others to reject Jesus and the kingdom of God, then it’s the believer who is Christlike in forgiveness and restoration (3b, 4). We are to forgive those who sin against us when they repent, even if it happens again and again. Just as Christ forgives us.
The apostles then ask Jesus to increase their faith (5), but Jesus tells them that they already have sufficient faith (6). What’s needed is their simple obedience (7–10). The idea of masters and servants may seem strange to us, but it was an accepted part of the culture then. Jesus uses this to illustrate that those who know themselves to be unworthy have sufficient faith, and should be like servants, belonging to their master and obeying unquestioningly. It was the Pharisees with their sense of entitlement to God’s favor who were stumbling blocks to the faith of others (2).
Obedience “proves” our faith. How do your actions show off your faith? Are you truly walking your faith or just saying you believe? How can you show that you trust God today?
“Lord, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly” (Richard of Chichester, 1197–1253).