New Testament · Parables · Simple Truths

Parable Surprises – Master and His Servant

Responsibilities and how we relate to them. Let’s get it straight.

Luke 17:7-10

7 “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’? 8 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’? 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; we have only done what was our duty.'”

Questions to Consider

Who were the audience?

It appears the reason this parable was given was to respond to the apostles request for increased faith. Luke is teaching of the necessity to forgive a brother is he trespasses seven times in a day, and the responsibility of the disciple to forgive.

Some commentators link this parable with the healing of the demoniac. Although applicable I suppose, I will continue with the flow of thought found in Luke’s telling.

When did the Lord give this parable?

This parable was given within three months of the passion week. For a helpful document, providing a list of all the events in Jesus Life, check out Events of Jesus Life.

Where did the Lord teach the parable?

During the last three months of the Lord’s time in Israel, much of it was spent in Perea, on the eastern side of the Jordan. Since this parable was given to the disciples specifically, it may have been a time when they were simply walking and talking after a general teaching was supplied to the masses. This particular time is more likely in the midst of a dedicated time of teaching for the disciples and likely away from the crowds.

Why did the Lord give this message?

The disciples asked for it. So often we ask for a right or privilege (or even a reward) without considering the responsibilities and labor required to attain it. We so often want the crown before the cross!

The responsibilities of the disciple are to be aligned with reality. Responsibilities prior to reward. As a matter of fact, the parable speaks nothing of reward, and yet the disciples asked for the benefit, the reward of greater faith. Did the Lord avoid the topic of the question?

The disciples realized they did not have it in them to forgive their brothers offense 7 times in a day. (I don’t know about you, but I sometimes struggle with forgiving once!) I can surely identify with these men as the Lord instructs these men to rebuke and forgive a brother of a sin against them.

What was the message for the original audience?

Faith is compared to a mustard seed, yet it is not described as becoming a great tree, as in an earlier parable. This mustard seed is so tiny, and spoken of as simply existing. No growth is referred to, or being used to define an attitude, or a mind set.

Jesus then tells the story of the Master and His servant, emphasizing the responsibility of the servant. The servant works all day in the heat of the sun, and when the day is over, is required to feed the Master. No “thank you” is offered the servant. After all the Masters needs and wants are supplied, the servant can eat and drink. He gets the remains of the Masters supply.

And he is to realign his judgement to realize that he doesn’t deserve the treatment he gets. The treatment of a slave. He is to do his duty and be happy.

There is more than simple forgiveness spoken of in this parable. As if the challenge to forgive an erring brother wasn’t shocking enough for the disciples (and me). Yes he speaks of my responsibility to forgive a brother if he sins against me seven times in a day. And there are other responsibilities that I hadn’t taken notice of previously.

The responsibility to rebuke a brother. It seems the disciples had some practice at this responsibility, at least from thier viewpoint. Often they would argue amongst themselves. This teaching the Lord provides may not be encouraging this type of correction process within the group.

What is the message for us today?

I want to be honest with you – I am struggling with this parable because the intended recipients, the disciples, were later called friends, and not servants.

John 15:13

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:15

Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

Doh – I missed this verse that fits between the two above. I think it is of importance in the consideration of this parable, don’t you?

John 15:14

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.

You know, my momma used to tell me, especially when I had to cut the lawn when I was a youngin, that “It is not for us to reason why, it is simply for us to do and die.” I realize that is a bit of a stretch for my momma to use that saying in relation to simply cutting the lawn , but there is a similar sentiment in this parable.

My momma loved me and yet she demanded work out of me, and through that work I felt the smile of my momma. She would never disown me, or abandon me. She loved me, yet she “had the nerve” to point to that lawn every Saturday morning.

And when I was done, I felt good! A bit proud of my accomplishment. At peace with my momma, at least in my mind – I don’t think she felt any animosity towards me prior to the “cutting”! But I don’t remember her thanking me.

And there is the rub. The lawn was squarely my responsibility and gratitude wasn’t considered part of the deal. Now don’t get me wrong – I never considered myself a slave to my momma, so the parallel with the parable breaks down a bit – but you get my point.

Get your attitude right Carl. You are not super spiritual, either in God’s eyes, (or more pointedly from this parable even your own eyes) if you forgive your brother for an offence. It is a bare minimum! A responsibility that is a base requirement of the Christian life. Harboring unforgiveness is unacceptable and is to be considered a very serious offence.

But the challenge is greater than simply forgiving a brother. Notice that the Lord, in Luke’s passage, includes the responsibility to rebuke a brother. This necessitates the need to stand firm in your convictions and to be dependent on God (and not to fear the loss of relationship with a brother). It also requires the data needed to know when the offence is simply a personal matter or a biblical matter. Let me explain.

Based on my past experience and personal leanings, I find giving youngsters sugary treats to be non-beneficial. This practice not only provides garbage into the child’s physical body, but creates an erratic pattern of behavior in the child. The child may experience poor health, become a demanding child, requiring another “hit” of sugar, slip into erratic sleeping patterns, and potentially experience separation from social graces in the result of becoming a “picky” eater.

That is my personal bias. I have not found a specific verse that states “Feed no sugar to 2 yr olds”. Do I have the responsibility to rebuke a brother if he feeds his kid sugar?

Based on the Word, if this same brother begins to cheat on his wife, do I have a responsibility to rebuke him?

This difference between feeding sugar to a child and breaking covenant is my way of defining the difference between knowing God’s Word in relation to rebuking a brother. Adultery is sin! Rebuke is non-negotiable. Feeding sugar to a child is preferential (I still think it is wrong!!!)

One on these sins needs to be rebuked, due to the command in the Scriptures. The other is preferential. Each may have different intensities of responsibility, but with each situation my attitude is critical.

A bit earlier I mentioned that the original disciples had no problem rebuking each other as they walked with the Savior.

Yet Jesus teaches them to forgive and rebuke. They are already masters at rebuking!!! Why the teaching?

A rebuke from a believer is to be handled, not from a position of superiority, but from an attitude of gentleness, of realizing we are all in a position of weakness.


Galations 6:1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

In all of this, in the forgiving and the rebuking, it is this parables intent to remind us that these duties of the believer are not base level responsibilities. Let us not get puffed up with pride (Remind me to tell you of my first effort at rebuking!), or eaten up with a victim’s attitude of requiring some thank you for performing the task at hand.

He loves us.

Out of His great abounding love toward us, get the work done and be content!

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Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion.

2 thoughts on “Parable Surprises – Master and His Servant

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