Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:1-10
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Whenever I go out to eat at a restaurant, I try to be generous with the tip. If the waiter was really good and went above and beyond, I tip accordingly. Even if the waiter ignored us for the entire meal, I never skip the tip on the check. Having both siblings and friends who have worked as waiters/waitresses, I’m sympathetic to the troubles they endure while working. Of course, the plight of figuring out what to tip is always subjective. People have different expectations for what’s considered “part of the job” or what constitutes going “above and beyond.”
We all know that with jobs, there’s a certain level of expectations for what we’re supposed to do. That’s why we were hired in the first place. If a company needs someone to input data, you’d be expected to input data correctly. After having done such, we don’t beat our chest or brag about how “wonderful” we are if we’ve only done what was expected of us.
Our Gospel text this week shows us some of the many expectations of living a Christian life. Jesus teaches the disciples about not causing a “little one” to stumble by being aware of our own actions (Luke 17:1-4). “Pay attention to yourselves!” Jesus says. Watch what you’re doing so that your carelessness doesn’t condemn a fellow Christian. So too, does Jesus teach us to forgive. It doesn’t matter how many times someone sins against you, if they seek your forgiveness, you are to forgive.
Of course, all this is easier said than done. We’re not very good about forgiving others because we’d rather hold grudges. We feel like we can’t forgive them if it was considered a horrible offense or even more if it was repeated numerous times. Once can be overlooked. Twice is hard, but possible. Three times is unjustifiable. For even when we do forgive, we like to hold it over their head so that they know we went “above and beyond”. We want to beat our chest to say how great we are, yet still fail to live up to the expectations God has set for us.
“We are unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). We don’t do what God has commanded. We withhold forgiveness even when Christ has instructed us repeatedly to forgive. We have failed to live up to his expectations. Yet, what do we hear when we turn to God and say, “I repent, Lord. Forgive me!”? God speaks his forgiveness again to us! We haven’t earned it, nor have we gone “above and beyond” to deserve it. Quite the contrary, we didn’t even live up to his commands. But God is generous. He gives us what we don’t deserve. He forgives us not just seven times, but as many times as we turn again to him. For he gave us Jesus to die on the cross for all our sins. He increases our faith that we may so too forgive, just as he has forgiven us. So, may we serve God in faith, leading a Christian life. And after we have done all, say, “We are unworthy servants.” Yet, when Christ should call us home, he shall say to us, “Come, recline at my table. Well done, good and faithful servant!”
O God, our refuge and strength, the author of all godliness, by Your grace hear the prayers of Your Church. Grant that those things which we ask in faith we may receive through Your bountiful mercy; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen!