October 7, 2001

Luke 17:5-10

The apostles came up and said to the Master, "Give us more faith."

But the Master said, " You don't need more faith. There is no 'more' or 'less' in faith. If you have a bare kernel of faith, say the size of a poppy seed, you could say to this sycamore tree, 'Go jump in the lake,' and it would do it.

"Suppose one of you has a servant who comes in from plowing the field or tending the sheep. Would you take his coat, set the table, and say, 'Sit down and eat'? Wouldn't you be more likely to say, 'Prepare dinner; change your clothes and wait table for me until I've finished my coffee; then go to the kitchen and have your supper'? Does the servant get special thanks for doing what's expected of him? It's the same with you. When you've done everything expected of you, be matter-of-fact and say, 'The work is done. What we were told to do, we did.'"

<The Message >


1. There is a wonderful book for "children" by Michael Ende, Mumu . The storyline revolves around the issue of saving time. People are encouraged to save time in a time bank. It turns out the more time they save the less time they have to live.

The same dynamic seems to be going on here with the disciples arguing for saving faith. Presumably once one has enough faith saved up then one can be active in their faith. Until that magic moment of enough comes, one never have enough. Not surprisingly, there is no such thing as enough.

Faith works more like time and less like money.

2. Casting around for other images which the world around us tells us are best measured by quantification brings these three to mind -- education and degrees (one needs certification before being able use what one already knows), work and vacation (in America workers are working more and recreating less, this is actually a reversal of the old work in order to vacation and has become work in order to be able to keep working), and status (as something granted to one as differentiated from what someone claims through their living).

What other categories come to your mind and heart?

3. Note that the traditional language to close this passage is: "we are unworthy servants" (NIV) and "We are worthless slaves" (NRSV). The New Jerusalem Bible includes this footnote about the word translated "worthless": "This adjective hardly fits the context, since the accent is on the state of service itself, see the end of the v.; but it is the literal (and traditional) translation of the Greek."

What do you think would happen if you did not read that word and were more matter-of-fact, as is the Message translation? How do you judge between the limitation of the literal and the liberation of the matter-of-fact? Where does the value lie for the community you are a part of?

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