Luke 17:5-10

Commentary Excerpt by Tom Boomershine

These two sayings of Jesus are essentially independent sayings that have been drawn together in this collection of sayings of Jesus in chapter 17. There is no need to try to make them coherent in relation to the same topic or theme. They are about different things.

The disciples' request is short and pointed: "Increase our faith." Jesus' response is a long sentence about the mulberry tree of several phrases. It builds both in speed and in volume to the climax: "it will obey you."

The second saying about the expectation of rewards introduces the servant in a long sentence that culminates with: "Come here at once and take your place at the table." This is the first possible response to a slave, that Jesus says nobody would ever have. In the second part Jesus asks, "…but will you not say to your slave, to your servant, come in and put on your apron and fix dinner for me…?'" This builds up to the climax of the stated expectation that you'd simply ask the servant to do what they would normally do.

The last sentence is translated in the NRSV as "worthless servant." I think a better translation is "unworthy." It's not that the servant is worthless or that we are worthless, it is rather that we are not worthy of receiving some great reward for doing what we're simply supposed to do. So the statement is not about your metaphysical status in relation to the kingdom of God; it's rather whether or not one is worthy to receive such a gift as is implicit in the overall parable.

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