A Slave by Grace

Eric Russ, Speaker

Luke 17:7-10 | May 7 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
May 7
A Slave by Grace | Luke 17:7-10
Eric Russ, Speaker

Good evening, family. Y’all sound kind of tired. What’s up, fam?

Hey, will you go to the Lord with me and let’s pray, ask the Lord to help us during this time? Bow your heads, family.

Lord, I’m always blown away and don’t even understand why You have seen it fit to allow Your Word to go forth to Your people by using people, and having us weekly in Bible study and different places, specifically here, preach Your Word. Lord, I am thankful and humbled and I pray that You would allow me to be faithful. I ask, Holy Spirit, that You would bring glory to Christ during this time. I pray that You would open our hearts and our ears that we would be not only hearers but doers of the Word and that we would be accurate and faithful with Your text. Lord, stir in our hearts. Make us more like You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Family. Humility. Humility is what this passage is about, family. It’s interesting. I’ve been serving in Christian leadership for about 25 years, a little north of 25 years, and I have never ever heard this passage preached. Never. So I didn’t know if it was another attempt at Christian hazing from the pastoral team, considering my first sermon was about lust. I don’t know. We’ll see. But it’s a very interesting passage, very humbling passage.

My prayer is that the Lord would use this because Jesus in this passage, we are doing a series on the parables in Luke, and this parable is embedded in an interesting place. Luke allows, as author, allows us to see Jesus as being kind of frustrated. He’s frustrated with the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, the scribes, because they have found themselves thinking that it matters to be honored, that it matters to be put in the high places, that the focus is and should be about them.

Then He is doubly frustrated earlier, before this passage that we’re going to look at, because the disciples find themselves actually being like those guys, arguing about who’s going to the greatest. So here’s Jesus trying to teach us what does it mean to be, as it were, the new people of God and His disciples are acting like these guys who think that power and authority should be given to them because of pride and arrogance.

This passage is about humility. Understanding who we are and understanding who God is.

What the Lord does is He starts by allowing us to see in verse 1 and 2 talking about the relationship that we have with one another. He doesn’t want us to find ourselves causing Christians to stumble, so He encourages us as a community of faith to beware of that. He continues on as He’s talking Christian community in verses 3 and 4 and He talks about the importance of forgiving others and repenting and experiencing and receiving repentance from others.

Then He moves toward what does it look like to have relationship with God and He talks about how the disciples asked to increase their faith. He gives a brief example of the parable of the mustard seed, talks about the mustard seed.

Then we enter into verses 7 through 10, and that’s where we’re going to land and be during our time. This is where He talks about this unworthy servant, this unworthy servant.

He starts with three rhetorical questions to make a very important point. If you go to verse 7, look at what He says there. He starts, He’s talking to these disciples, and remember, keep in your mind the tenor is He’s trying to help them understand that they need to be humble. He starts, He says, “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping the sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at the table?'”

If you know anything about rhetorical expressions, He’s asking rhetorical questions and usually when we ask rhetorical questions we have in our minds a place where how we want to guide the conversation. Right? That’s why you do it because you know where you want to guide the conversation. Usually rhetorical questions have answers that are very simple and that you assume that we’re all agreeing upon. Right? So you ask the question that we all assume the answer, so it seems like these are kind of slow balls.

This is what Jesus is doing here. He’s asking this first question, and I want you to know that this was easy for them. Right? Because about 30% if not a quarter of all people in Roman antiquity were, in the first century, were slaves. So this was very normal, this conversation about slavery. He asked this question, will a servant plowing and keeping sheep and comes from the field. He used the term “servant,” the term “dulos,” or “dulon” in this text here, is used over 1000 times in Scripture, which I’ll let you know is a very important term. He uses this term, it’s translated servant. It’s very normal.

He uses these works of this servant. Notice the works that He uses. He talks about the parable of the sowerer. He talks about, in 1 Corinthians, we look at planting, we see that in 1 Corinthians. We see He talks about shepherding, we see that in John 21. So He uses these terms that help you and I know that actually these images metaphorically are in other places in the Bible and usually are talking about the servants of God.

So we get kind of these little tidbits we learn. Okay, so these servants are servants of God, they know what it means to understand the servant/master relationship, so this is kind of easy-peasy lemon squeezy, right? So they say, well, of course, you know, they’re thinking in their minds, “Yeah, Jesus, of course we wouldn’t ask that. That makes no sense. The masters are masters, the servants are servants.” Okay.

Goes to verse 8. Well, “Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me and dress properly and serve me while I eat and drink and afterward you will eat and drink.'” And verse 9, does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? And they’re like, well, yeah, these are easy. Well, of course, they wouldn’t ask him to come in and eat and drink and of course this servant would work hard and do what they needed to do before they actually ate and drank.

So Jesus is sitting there and you can imagine the conversation. He gives these very simple rhetorical questions. Jesus is like, “Okay, all right, so we’re on the same page, right?”

They’re like, “Yeah, Jesus, okay, yeah. We understand what a servant does, what a master does. Yeah, Jesus, very simple. Okay. The master is the master and he tells the servant what to do and the servant obeys and the servant obeys and does all the work that the master wants. Of course. The servant finally at the end of the night when he has done everything that the master wants gets some food. Okay. So we’re on the same page and understand that the master is here and the servant is here. Okay. The servant works for the master. Yes, okay. Jesus, wait. Why are You asking this?”

“Hey, I just want you to know in this story, you’re the slave.”

Now I don’t know. I wonder if it was one of those situations. It doesn’t tell you in the text. I wonder if when He said that, you know how sometimes you know the answer and then you say yes to things but then when you find out that the answer you gave has a lot of other implications you start wondering, “So what did I agree to?” You know what I’m saying. Because I’m wondering if they’re like, “Okay, I just said yeah, but what was the slaving doing again? The slave was doing…” and they start thinking through what does it mean, because if we’re the slave, and you’re telling me these are the things we…Wait.

I want to propose to you that there are five things that Jesus says, there’s a lot but this is not exhaustive, but I want to look at five different concepts, different ideas, that are implied through Jesus’ statement, “You are the slave.”

Look what He says. He says in verse 10, “so you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say you’re unworthy servants. We have only done what was our duty.”

Notice, as I want to fill the rest of our time, I want to use the word “slave,” I might interchange and use “servant,” but I want to use the word “slave” because I think that gives us the better picture of what Jesus is trying to communicate. Not because of the first century but because I think we have diluted what servant is. So I think what we think about of servant I’ll discuss in a moment, so I want to make sure that we understand what’s going on here, that He uses this word slave, which can be translated dulon just like servant here.

The first concept, the first idea that I propose that Jesus is making really clear, is that there is one owner. In the passage there is one owner.

Now I don’t know about you, but there’s something about that I think because of who we are, we hate express authority. What do I mean by that? Jesus makes it really clear. He puts everybody on blast. Right? Imagine you’re hanging out with Jesus and all of a sudden He says this, “You’re an unworthy slave.” You’re like, “Man, what happened, Jesus? I thought we was boys.” Right? There’s something in us that gets us so upset when someone expresses authority.

See, we don’t have a boss. Today, you know, the trick of the enemy, he’s trying to destroy authority altogether because basically I would propose the glue of community flourishing, so that’s why if you look around in our world authority is continually getting chopped down because if you can get rid of authority and if we are all on the same page, then God’s on the same page, too, and you destroy a society. But that’s for another day.

But here I want to propose even in a good environment where people like authority, even us, nice ___, right? You can have a boss and you can follow the boss’ lead and you and the boss can know who’s the boss and who’s not the boss. But there’s something that gets us in our feelings when the boss says, “I want you to know I’m the boss.” There’s something in us. Right? That makes us go, “Well, you ain’t gotta say it.” Right? We start getting all, “Oh, you hurt my feelings. Oh, you’re a tyrant. You’re mean.” No, I told the truth.

I mean, I was thinking about my sweetheart, I was thinking about all of these godly women in here. You know, you guys are awesome helpmates. But can you imagine what the __ of gymnastics you have to go through. Right? If you’re with your man and you guys are having a good heated discussion and in humility but with some sense of rigor, your husband says, “Sweetheart, I hear you but I am called to lead the family.” Sis would be like… Right? And then you will look at her. Right? You’ll look at her and you’ll hear her kind of mumbling things about “and the rib that the Lord took from Adam…” “Baby, what’s up?” “I’m just renewing my mind with truth.”

Because she wants to trust the Lord. She knows you’re leading but there’s something that gets in us when authority is just expressed, when it’s clear. When it’s clear that you’re the boss and I’m not.

You go, well, why is that? I want to tell you why that is. Think about it. What was one of the main reasons, it seems in Scripture, that we see Satan’s rebellion in Genesis? His independence. He wanted independence. Right? That’s why it says in Genesis chapter 3 verse 5. He says, “Hey, you know what? Don’t listen to God. God doesn’t want you to eat that fruit because He knows when you eat it, you will be like God.” You see that?

See, when you like somebody, right? If I’m at work and me and you are alike and we’re the same kind of person, then I don’t have to obey you. I don’t have to listen to you. Right? If I find myself being like God, then I don’t have to obey God because we’re kind of the same.

I’m proposing that this is a phenomenon that we all struggle with, this sense of independence, of saying, “You know what? I want to be my own god.” I even propose that that’s why, and I think of the first three commandments, when I go to heaven I’m going to ask Jesus, “What are the reasons why You did the first three commandments the way You did? Are You just trying to make it so clear that You running things?” Right? That there’s one Lord, that God’s in a class all by Himself.

Fam, if we can be, you know, vulnerable here, there is, I have a pet peeve. You know, when I think of God’s kingdom, God’s kingdom, He rules everything He’s made, which is everything, and then what He does in His kindness He gives you and me an opportunity, I propose, to have these little kingdoms, they’re called our homes, you know. Now they’re under the auspices of the big kingdom, but we have our homes. For me, if I can just stay vulnerable with you guys, one of the things I cannot, my pet peeve, is when people come, they have their kingdom, they have their rules in their kingdom, but they come to your house with their rules. That’s hard for a brother like me.

Now I’m going to get real vulnerable with you now. One of my biggest pet peeves, and you’re going to freak out, and then also you’re going to be like, man, I hope you’re not scared when you come to my house now, but one of my biggest pet peeves is people come to my house, they come to the house, and there’s no harm, this is my pet peeve, this is my issues I’m working through, okay? But, and you know the Lord, He made it so that man when he makes chairs, and we’ve got chairs, we’ve got couches all around the house, He’s made it where there’s a place, the butts go here. Right? That’s where they go. So that’s really simple. It’s cool. But for whatever reason you ever get people come to your house and they want to sit everywhere but where the butt is supposed to go? They over here, right? They talking to you like this. You ever have that?

I was like man, why don’t they just sit in the chair? My issue is more the fact that I just can’t afford to keep buying couches. You know what I’m saying? So if I was independently wealthy I’d be like tear it up, it ain’t yours. But I can’t.

So I bring that analogy up to say when I think about myself and how think man, you know what? I know what you do in your kingdom, but when you come to my house, you need to follow my kingdom rules. All right.

What God is asking what I want to be about in this home, and I want to propose to you guys that the Lord says that this is His house, that this is His world, and He’s saying He doesn’t want you and me fighting ourselves, thinking about we can kind of think about what we want to do, we can act like we’re owners. He says, “No, there’s one owner and everybody else is slaves.”

Look what the Scripture says. It says in 1 Chronicles 29:11, “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and You are exalted as head above all.”

The kingdom is where God’s rule and reign is happening and it’s happening in every place that He’s moved and created and he states saying that this is His kingdom. That’s why slave, the word slave is important for us to use in this text, guys, because He wants you to know. You know, we think, “Well, man, I hear you, but we have some rights.” No, that’s the point. You have no rights. That’s the point of the text.

Now this is difficult because I know you want me to eventually end by showing you the cool, loving God but I want to, I’m going to stick to what the text is telling you and me. It seems like that Jesus sees it’s important to de-mythologize the minds of these individuals and remind them that He’s God and there’s only one.

This is a good word for the Pharisees. Imagine the Pharisees. So they disciples hear this, I’m sure they’re going through all kinds of thoughts, and this word gets back to the Pharisees because He’s frustrated that they’re acting like the Pharisees. He’s obviously frustrated with the Pharisees and the scribes and the teachers of the law. He wants to remind them that we are all servants. That’s the reality. That God claims comprehensive ownership. He owns everything. If God owns everything, you and I own nothing.

So the reality of life, including your life. You don’t own that either. How do we know that? Because He can kill you at any moment. He runs your life. So that means that our lives, we think and the world tells us that your life is meant for you to own, but your life, when God births you and then as it were rebirths you, He does that so that you might now use your life as a steward. You are not the owner, you are a manager. He’s the owner and you use it as a steward to bring Him honor and glory. That’s the goal in life.

So He’s bringing these disciples to the point of understanding that firstly there’s one owner.

Number two. The master’s work is the primary focus for the slave.

The assumption here is that the slave would do whatever the master requires. Right? It’s interesting to me because can you imagine you being a master and having a slave, and you’re, “Hey, slave, listen, we have these bees and we have some honey. I want you to go and get the honey from the honeycombs,” and the slave just looks at him and goes, “You know what? I ain’t into that been thing, man. I don’t do the bee life.”

That won’t happen. Can you imagine? No. See, the reason why slave is an important word is because sometimes, in doing Christian ministry, what I’ve seen a lot is people see themselves, they know theologically that we are servants, that we are slaves, but we pragmatically live our lives like we’re volunteers. Not like slaves.

There’s a nuance there. Here me there. There’s a nuance because I love volunteers, don’t stop volunteering, praise the Lord. All right? But the Bible says you’re not a volunteer, you’re a slave. Right? Think about it. Volunteers, they give of excess time. Right? They give of their reserves. A slave gives of their livelihood.

When I think of being a volunteer, a slave doesn’t have a designated time. A volunteer gives you a certain amount of time. See, when God calls you and me and makes us His people, He makes us slaves, not volunteers.

I love the fact, I love how Paul, it’s just interesting to me how Paul consistently throughout his writings makes the framework, the main identity of him. What does he say all the time? Paul, a slave. Paul, a slave. It’s the fundamental identity when he’s writing his epistles.

My prayer is for us a as people that God would work in our hearts to not see ourselves as giving up our access but we would ask God to consider helping us understand what does it mean to give up our livelihood.

Now number three. The master owes you, as you look at verse 9, nothing. The master owes the slave nothing.

The Scriptures read, “Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?” __ answer no.

Now this is interesting. So you have these, these disciples are talking about who will be the greatest, and imagine that. They’re walking around, “Who will be the greatest?” The reason why is because you have Jesus, they’re thinking, “Man, Jesus, but guys, we’re on Jesus’ team and He’s going to get all this power. This is awesome. So Jesus is going to have power and we’re his boys. This is great. Okay. I wonder how he’s going to… The point is how is He going to redistribute this power? He’s going to have power, so I know He’s going to redistribute it. I wonder what we’re going to get.”

Jesus looks and thinks, “No, guys. You missed it. I’m not going to just redistribute power. That’s not why I’ve come.” Jesus came to redefine what it means to have power.

What does He teach us? What is the new definition? All throughout the Scriptures the new definition is those who lead, serve. True leadership, true power, is seen through being a sacrificial servant.

Oh, if we would get this as people. If I would get this in my life and realize it’s not about me politicking, it’s not about me claiming rights that the world claims. Can you imagine, young people, you’re in school and you don’t get caught up in trying to be in the right cliques, trying to say and do and wear the right things but you find yourself daily in school thinking, “Lord, how can I model that I am a slave of Christ? That I’m going to lead here by serving, by care for other students who maybe individuals laugh at. By being willing to stand outside with Jesus and say I want to identify with the Lord so I want to figure out… What are the creative ways that I can give my life as His slave?”

What would that look like if you do this at work? If it wasn’t trying to climb the ladder, to be successful? But you went in with the mindset, “Lord, would you allow me to be a servant, be the slave?”

We lead by serving.

I would say number 4 or 3A if you will, would be you have the master owes the slave nothing… And by the way, when I say that He owes us nothing, I want to say that we never, like, we’re always in debt in the sense of our service. It uses the word, whenever we serve it’s not the best service. Right? It’s like Wonder Bread, you’re like eh. You know. So we never do it, we never, like, it’s never awesome, and then we never, like, He never looks at us and thinks He needs to reward us. So we are always in debt to God. He is never in debt to us. I just want to make sure that we understand that’s the kind of the posture, that’s the tenor of the text.

Kind of 3B or A or number 4, but the master also is not a respecter of persons. That’s what He tells us to do likewise.

This is a cousin to this whole process of what the master owes us.

Do you know what respecter of persons means? That’s in Acts. That God isn’t a respecter of persons. What I mean by that, let me give you the definition, respecter of persons is when you and me use a worldly totem pole to kind of place people in different rings and figure out who’s where in life. That’s what it means to be a respecter of persons. That we use a worldly agenda, that we go, “I’m going to be like the world. I’m going to look at people and I’m going to say this person belongs here, this person belongs here based on what I think, this person belongs here based on the value of the world, the world system is,” and we place people.

God says when you and I do that, especially when you and I place people here, He says you are in sin. For two reasons. Because when you find yourself placing people in areas where only God should be, that’s idolatry. And when you place people below where you think you are, right? Where you think you are here and you place them below, you’re right now at that point disparaging the image-bearing capacity of the person. You’re saying that person wasn’t created with value, purpose, and worth equal to you.

Both are abhorrent and evil.

It’s interesting to me, the Pharisees struggle. And this is the heart of, Pharisees, I would say, their struggle, the teachers of the law, their struggle was success. Think about it. It’s funny. In our day and age, the Pharisees, you know, you’ve grown up, I’ve grown up, even when I wasn’t a believer, I knew the Pharisees were the bad guys. You know what I’m saying? I knew that at least.

But what’s interesting to me, in the first century they weren’t. People wanted to be Pharisees. They were respected. Right? Because people thought they knew God and loved God and all of these things. So I want to say that probably for the most part these guys, I want to think they started in the game and they had the desire to have the religious purity and mind for Judaism and they wanted to protect those things. I wonder if they started out like that but then something happened. Something happened where the power dynamic, desire to want to be known and desire to want to be honored. Something happened where all of a sudden they began to find themselves thinking that they were more than they were.

Fam, that is not a first century phenomenon. You hear me? We struggle with that today. In fact, I would propose, I would say Christian success or being successful and/or being a successful Christian, is extremely dangerous if you don’t have the right frameworks around you for accountability and protection. Extremely dangerous.

Look what the Scriptures say in 2 Chronicles 26 verse 15, talking about Uzziah. It says he made machines invented by skillful men to be on towers and corners to shoot arrows and stones and his fame spread far. He was marvelously helped until he was strong. So he was, God was blowing him up, exalting him. But when he was strong he grew proud to his destruction.

You hear that? The picture is us looking around and saying, “Um, look at me. You know, I know I believe in God’s grace, but man, I am really smart. I did start this hedge fund. Man, I am pretty popular. I am an elder. Wow, I am a pastor.” What in this room, if you would ask yourself, what in this room do you cling to to find your significance? In your mind, in your, what do you cling to?

This is a really scary thing. Right? I mean, I think about, I think of the analogy comes to mind of what I deem a very sad time in history, when you think of slavery, you think of you had bad white masters who would basically bring a chasm between the blacks. What they would do is they would have, you had these two kinds of workers. Right? You had the workers who were out in the fields and they lived in slums and horrible places, and then, you know, in that area. Then you had what they would call the house negro. The house person would go in and they would do anything as far as take care of the kids, you know, do a lot of the work around the house. So what began to happen is eventually those in the house started thinking, “Hmm, I must be better than you. I’m in the house and you’re not.” So then they started actually, you know, if there was kind of being their master’s like tattletale, they would kind of keep watch and they would kind of find themselves feeling like they had authority and actually displacing themselves from those Africans. It’s interesting because it was all well and dandy but every once in a while they stepped out of line and it’d be made known real quick, you a slave.

The reality is I wonder if that’s us, that we very quickly, it doesn’t take much, guys, it can literally be something as futile as like how you look. We take opportunities to find ourselves thinking we’re better than one another. Then we take those things and we say, wow, I must be awesome. God must see me as just a little different. I’m still a slave, but I’m a good slave. I’m a house slave. Right?

We’ve got to be careful, family. I’ll just give this word to the pastor, he’s keeping it real. We’ve got to be careful as Christians. I get the heeby-jeebies sometimes. Look, I love John Piper, too, y’all. I love, you know, all these guys that we deem as like, wow, these are awesome men. The Tim Kellers of the world. There’s a beautiful dance that has to happen with respecting individuals but no lifting people up to the point in the place of God. We don’t call them God but when you goo goo and ga ga ga like that, that stuff…

I tell you, when I was at Mac Ave I would get weirded out and be nervous when people would put me in a certain light. You know why? Because the Bible tells me all you doing is putting me on God’s hit list. You know why? Because He hates idols. So you like liking me too much and I go get hit by a bus. You know? And I’m in the kingdom going, “Why’d I get hit by a bus, Jesus?” “Hey, I had to make an example out of you. They thought you was awesome, had to show ’em you’re very killable.” Right?

I tell you, I tell you, even, the best thing we can do is to in a very beautiful way honor our brother Pastor Kevin, but don’t lift him like he Jesus. That’s not good for him. That’s not good for you. It doesn’t honor God.

Number five. He says the slave does what is commanded. He says “God commanded you.” That means He’s the owner, you’re the servant, obey what He tells you to do, it’s your duty.

The issue here, family, is that really God can own you better than you can own you. We’re not smart enough. It’s a beautiful thing. We’re not the owner, we’re management.

Now there’s one point that I wanted, a little brief caveat, for eternal significance, you might be thinking, “Okay, E, I hear you about the slave thing, but what if I just want to be free?” If you’re an unbeliever, you might be thinking, “Well, why would you just choose to be a slave?” Okay, hear me here, for this is very important eternally. The point of the passage is not that you move from freedom to slave in Christ. The point of the passage is that you move from slave to sin, right? Slave to an evil master, you move to slave to a good, loving, awesome master. That’s the posture.

See, Satan wants to trick you. He tricked me for many years until Jesus opened my eyes and hopefully this is the time. He wants to trick you because he wants you to think that before Christ you were just this free entrepreneur, doing life. No, no, no, no. The Bible teaches that when you and I are born, we are born as a slave to sin. We’re born we have a sinful nature that basically we’re a slave to sin, we walk around, and we’re like puppets on a string and Satan’s our daddy and everything that we’re doing, kind of consuming the world and gratifying the desires of our flesh. He’s saying you were doing all that in a graveyard. You were dead.

What God wants to do is He wants to awaken you and bring you out of that slavery and bring you to a slavery what He tells you in the Word. What does He say? He says, “Cast your cares upon Me.” And I love this. He says, “Yes, there’s a burden but it’s light.” He says, “I want to get you away from that heavy burden of the evil one and not have you be a slave any longer to evil and sin.” And He says, “I want you go grab My yoke. Yes, My yoke, I guide you. But I don’t yank you like a tyrant, like the evil one.”

So family, I just want to make sure that we understand what’s happening here. The Bible is teaching us that there is slavery and you’re always a slave, and the question isn’t, “Am I slave?” The question is, “Who am I a slave to?” That’s the question.

Our prayer is that you would choose a good slave Christ as a master, family. I want to say to you, what I love about what He does, and we’re closing here, is what He does, this is beautiful. Notice the master tells us what does it mean to be a master and then He does something altogether different. He says this is what it means to be a master, and then what does He do on the eve before He’s murdered? He kneels and He washes His disciples’ feet as a servant, and He says, “I’m going to serve you as a master and I want you to serve.” He say, “I’m giving you a new call. I’ve made you a new person. I’ve done it for free because I killed My Son for your sin, so now you’re free from sin. I’ve moved you from Hell and what I want you to be is a slave to God.”

Family, this passage is about humility. There’s one master, we’re all servants, we’re all in the master’s house, and He’s a good master.

Will you pray with me? Lord, thank you for being good, thank you for being loving. We ask that we would talk about this in our small groups, with our friends and family, and Lord, would You give us practical steps, practical next steps, on how and what does it look like to be a gospel, Jesus-loving, slave. Would you allow us to not be like those teachers of the law and would You allow us as disciples eventually paid heed, would You allow us to do so as well and take great joy in being Your servant, Your slave? In Jesus’ name. Amen.