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§ 241. The Passion for Rewards rebuked. (Luke, xvii., 7.)

Akin to the foregoing parable, though not chronologically connected with it, is the following fragment of a conversation646646   Luke, xvii., 7, shortly before the account of the last journey to Jerusalem. It is plain that the 17th chapter begins with portions of unconnected conversations. We have already seen that v. 5, 6, belong to the period now before us. in which Christ rebuked the prevalent longing of his disciples for ease and reward. “Which of you, having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say unto him, when he is come from the field, Come and sit down to meat? 351and will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant for having done the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.”

Two thoughts are here presented: First, the disciples were not to expect at once in the kingdom of God, for whose appearance they were looking, a reward for their efforts to do Christ’s will. Their Master was first to enter into his glory, and they were to remain upon earth and labour for him. Then for them, too, would come the time of rest and refreshment. Secondly, the servant who only fulfils his master’s commands has no reason to boast, and no claim to his master’s thanks; he has only rendered the duty owed by a servant to his lord. It is only when he goes beyond express commands, and does all that his master’s advantage demands out of pure love, that he can look for thanks; he acts then, not as the servant, but as the friend. So the Apostles, acting simply as servants to Christ, were to call themselves unprofitable servants after they had fulfilled his express commands; they lacked as yet the all-prevailing love that would of itself, without such commands, impel them to every service which his cause required. This disposition obtained, they would be no more servants, but friends; and all disputes for rank, all mercenary longing for rewards, would fall away. They would then never think that they had done enough for the Master. To this spirit, the essence of genuine Christianity, they were to be exalted.647647   My view of the moral import of this passage agrees with that of my dear friend Julius Müller (Von der Sünde, 2te Aufl., i., 48), although he gives it a somewhat different turn. I differ from him, however, in regard to the bearing of the passage; he applies it to the Pharisees rather than to the Apostles.

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