This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 17:5-10. These verses seems to indicate how hard work, obedience, and a servant-like attitude are linked to the type of faith that moves trees and mountains.
Jesus was responding to the request of the apostles to increase their faith, but His two responses seem rather bizarre. For me, that is what makes Bible reading fun–trying to solve a puzzle. What really fascinates me is that God has provided words written through man that give us insight about how He thinks and acts. That is quite an amazing thing for the Creator of the universe to do. So when Jesus (God incarnate) speaks in a puzzling way and His words are recorded in scripture, we are encouraged to dig–into the Bible and into our souls–while communing with Him for direction and for explanations. These verses are a great opportunity to do just this.
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.’”
When 21st century Americans, and I am sure people from other developed countries, sit down and read the Bible looking for financial guidance, it is difficult to find the answers they want. That is because they often want to know what they can do to be rich or how they can have people wait on them while they work less, as in today’s scripture passage. When we look for such answers, we will be offered heart-wrenching change.
All kinds of wisdom and guidance about money are in the Old Testament, in particular passages that connect our actions with either wealth or poverty–for example, advice about just being wise, saving and generous, as well as cautions about accumulating wealth. Likewise, we see poverty connected to laziness, spending all income, and spending tomorrow’s paycheck today when we go into debt. We also see many times in the Bible where nations or persons are blessed because they obeyed God, were good stewards, and didn’t worship anything but God.
So there is some cause and effect exemplified in the Bible: reaping and sowing, prospering financially if behaviors and attitudes are right.
There is also grace in the Bible. God is generous towards us, before obedience, wisdom or heart change. For example, God liberated his people from Egypt and gave them everything they needed while they traveled–food literally fell out of the sky every day. Ultimately he gave them a place to live that flowed with milk and honey. It wasn’t because they earned it or behaved well at all, but it was because God loved them.
When Jesus talks about life in general, or more specifically about money, the direction He gives or the answers to questions he provides are usually not to add to what has already been said in the Bible. Jesus has a different audience. Before Jesus, Biblical instruction was often to a theocratic nation, but it is still applicable today. Jesus is speaking to people from many nations, with all sorts of religious beliefs. In Jesus’ audience, there were multi-god religions, Judaism, and intellectuals schooled in the teachings of Latin and Greek philosophers, as well as individuals worshiping money and power. It was much like America is today, so Jesus taught down to the core heart issues instead.
So back to the Bible verse above. Jesus was responding to the request for people to have more faith and to believe in Him and His teaching. Jesus challenged people, or more likely blew their minds, by saying that if they had even a little faith in Him, they could command objects like trees and mountains (Matthew 21:21) to be uprooted. However, what is particularly interesting is what follows, where Jesus was saying that we need to be obedient, humble, and faithful followers of Him; to be hard workers; and to have faith. The example here is of a guy working hard in the fields all day, who then has to prepare someone else’s meal before preparing his own. That is hard work, and Jesus is connecting faith to obedience and hard work. It seems as if in American society today, we want to have more money, higher position, and a good retirement, in many instances, so that we don’t have to work as hard. That is a broken paradigm, and one that Jesus says will diminish your faith. It seems that Jesus is connecting having faith and seeing miracles for the things you are praying for with hard work and an obeying heart. We are not to be living for future days of less work. This is true whether we are an executive in the “C-Suite,” a worker in a call center, or someone doing day labor.
Do you want to have that faith Jesus talked about, and to see miraculous fruit, maybe in your finances, your small business, or in many other things? Then hard work with a Christ-like (John 5:19) servant’s heart of obeying and serving Him in all things seems to be essential (also read Colossians 3:23). Jesus is telling us this because He is our friend (read John 15:15) and is interested in molding our hearts to emulate his example (Matthew 20:28), and not in having us be His slave-like servants.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the fiftieth post in this series.