It was one of those moments. Jesus challenged his disciples to show forgiveness to others, even if it means forgiving them seven times in one day. The disciples saw the challenge and responded: “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5)
I’m not entirely sure what they hoped to get from Jesus, but I suspect they recognized the gap between Jesus’ teachings and their own abilities.
So Jesus responded by saying that faith doesn’ t have to be huge; even a tiny amount can move mountains. Then he told them a parable: “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’ 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 anddrink’ ? Will 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 17:6-10)
I think he was saying, “You don’ t need more faith; you need more faithfulness.”
In other words, theirs wasn’ t a head problem. It wasn’ t an intellectual need. It wasn’ t even a lack of commitment. What they needed to do was put their faith into action. Or, more specifically, put their faith into obedience.
Hebrews 11 is the great chapter on faith. We read about Abel, Enoc, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, and the rest. In almost every case, when we read about their faith, we read about something they did. We see their faith in their faithfulness.
Faith is more than an emotion. It’ s more than an intellectual exercise. It’ s something that you can observe. Faith is belief in action. Faith is being willing to listen to God and follow his lead, no matter what.
Faith leads to action. I can believe that a man is a doctor, yet still have no faith in him. But if I do have faith in a doctor, then I will follow his instructions. It is no special credit to me if I do what the doctor tells me to do; it is merely a symbol of the faith that I have in him.
If you’d like to have greater faith, then I believe the key is to take what faith you have and put it into action. Find ways to serve others. Tell people about what God is doing in this world. Meet needs and better your community.
Because you may not need more faith at all; you might just need a bit more faithfulness
Timothy Archer has coordinated the Spanish-speaking Ministries for Hope For Life / Herald of Truth Ministries since 2006. He has spent three decades working in Spanish ministry, including 15 years in Argentina. Tim preaches for the bilingual ministry at the University Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, where he attends with his wife Carolina, and their two children, Daniel and Andrea. Tim has co-authored three books with Steve Ridgell: Letters From The Lamb, Hope For Life and More Hope For Life, as well as a history of the churches of Christ in Cuba that was co-written with Cuban preacher Tony Fernández. Tim’s latest book, Church Inside Out, helps churches motivate their members to be actively ministering to the community around them. You can follow Tim’ s personal blog at: http://www.timothyarcher.com/kitchen/
In the book of Esther, I can’t help but take notice of Haman’s wholehearted narcissism I mean, the guy really does love himself, his accomplishments, and as a reader…we just know that something terrible is going to happen to this guy. Let me give you two instances in which we see Haman enjoying…well…himself. After coming home from the banquet with Esther, Haman gathers his family and friends together to share his experience with them:
5:10b Then Haman gathered together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 and boasted to them about his great wealth and his many children. He bragged about the honors the king had given him and how he had been promoted over all the other nobles and officials.12 Then Haman added, “And that’s not all! Queen Esther invited only me and the king himself to the banquet she prepared for us. And she has invited me to dine with her and the king again tomorrow!”
Of course, his experience is not as happy and as self-aggrandizing as it could have been because Haman saw Mordecai on the way home and his presence was enough to stir up hatred in Haman. Yet, Haman has another opportunity when the king asks him how to honor a person who deserves the king’s acknowledgment. Haman’s response is self focused.
6:6b Haman thought to himself, “Whom would the king wish to honor more than me?” 7 So he replied, “If the king wishes to honor someone, 8 he should bring out one of the king’s own royal robes, as well as a horse that the king himself has ridden—one with a royal emblem on its head. 9 Let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. And let him see that the man whom the king wishes to honor is dressed in the king’s robes and led through the city square on the king’s horse. Have the official shout as they go, ‘This is what the king does for someone he wishes to honor!’”
The person to be honored was Mordecai, and the person to carry out the honor was Haman. This was not the way Haman wanted to spend his time, to say the least! Hamas will meet his demise at the end of chapter 7, but what I noticed is that there is not much sympathy for Haman, both in the text of scripture and in my reaction to the story.
As I hear the story unfold, and Haman’s death by the very devise he set up to kill Mordecai, I hear scriptures that warn about “unrighteous gain” and “scheming” and “not being boastful” and the list goes on and on. While Mordecai is crying out to God and doing the right things quietly, without honor (until the King can’t sleep that one night), Haman is loud, boastful, and conniving. So, justice comes…and we the readers of the book are relived to some extent because we agree with the king that Mordecai deserves honor and Haman deserves punishment.
Esther calls Haman, “wicked Haman” as she names him as an adversary and enemy. The story leaves little doubt that Haman really did love himself to death. Sometimes it isn’t as blatant as in this story, but the Bible warns us against this type of self-focus, self-love, and self-aggrandizement. I long for the day that all Hamans are brought to justice and all the Mordecais are honored…but first let me make sure I have put to death he Haman-like attitudes in my life!
For those of us who are familiar with the parable of the talents from Matthew’s gospel, reading through Luke can really get confusing in chapter 19 when we come to a familiar text used in a different, and can I say unfamiliar, way. The traditional teaching of the talents often prefers Matthew’s use of the parable and is a compelling way of urging believers to be about the master’s business. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus has just gone to Zacchaeus’s house and was turning his attention on Jerusalem. The new set up for the familiar story is found in 19:11
11 The crowd was listening to everything Jesus said. And because he was nearing Jerusalem, he told them a story to correct the impression that the Kingdom of God would begin right away.
Ok…pause…in Matthew the parable of the Talents is told between two other teachings. The story before Matthew’s account of the parable of the Ten Virgins, and right after the story is a teaching that starts, “But when the Son of Man comes in glory…” So, clearly Matthew is addressing the idea of living life in preparation for the return of the bridegroom, the master, the Son of Man.
But not so with Luke, same story used for a different purpose. It is a story of the kingdom, but this time it isn’t referencing the going and coming of Jesus, but the story is now pointing to a political reality of Jerusalem and the occupied people. Listen to the start of the story:
19:12 He said, “A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. 13 Before he left, he called together ten of his servants and divided among them ten pounds of silver, saying, ‘Invest this for me while I am gone.’ 14 But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We do not want him to be our king.’
I know, I know, this could be Jesus…but for a people who thought Jesus was going to walk into Jerusalem and overthrow it and then free the people from their oppressors, this opening would be the opposite of their plans for Jesus. Of course, then there is the ending of the story after the familiar part about the three servants presenting their money back to the master:
19:26 “‘Yes,’ the king replied, ‘and to those who use well what they are given, even more will be given. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 27 And as for these enemies of mine who didn’t want me to be their king—bring them in and execute them right here in front of me.’”
Luke is not pointing to the “end of days” or some eschatological event, nope, the story addresses an appointed ruler over the occupied people has returned to ask their allegiance to him. Jesus, in Luke’s gospel, will leave this audience and go to Jerusalem where he will be welcomed by palm branches by the people, but Jesus will be in tears over the realities of what will become of Jerusalem. The King has arrived in the city, but the King will be the only person executed. Enemies will be forgiven. The Kingdom of God stands in contrast to this nobleman made king and his Kingdom of tyranny.
So, the same story used in two different setting by two different writers; Matthew reminds believers of the responsibility we have because Jesus has invested in us and wants us to use our talents for the master’s good; Luke reminds us that the ways of earthly kings are oppressive and severe and we should long for a Kingdom that is different from what we have experienced in our world. The gospel story, meta-narrative, is one of longing for the reign and return of Christ Jesus, which both usages encourage us to pursue with everything we have!
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.