Summary: We are accepted into God’s Family, but we are appointed to serve. It is our duty as disciples to fulfil the will of the Master.
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? 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’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
In this present series of messages, we are considering manly attributes that are valued within the brotherhood of believers. Let me present a disclaimer at the beginning of this message. As I acknowledged in a previous message, these attributes that we are considering are not the exclusive domain of males; nevertheless, Christian men especially should ensure that these characteristics are not only esteemed, but they must be encouraged to inculcate them into their lives. In our study today, we are thinking of duty.
Undoubtedly, one can produce multiple examples encouraging duty in the Word of God. Undoubtedly, multiple passages can be suggested that plainly speak of duty. However, I want to think of duty in relationship to God. I want to encourage us to rethink our view of duty, ensuring that we bring our thinking into line with the will of the True and Living God as revealed in the Word. In order to accomplish this admittedly weighty task, I ask you to consider the teaching of the Master, delivered at a time when the disciples were asking Him to increase their faith.
THE SETTING FOR THE TEACHING — Jesus had spoken of the cost of discipleship—a teaching that is too frequently neglected in this day [LUKE 14:25-33]. His sobering statement demanding that potential disciples think carefully about the cost of following Him seems to have rocked the disciples. This statement was followed by a stunning statement obviously related to what had just been said. “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” [LUKE 14:34, 35].
The Master had then delivered a series of parables that spoke of the value of finding life and of the joy in heaven when people are born from above. He told of a lost sheep [LUKE 15:1-7], a lost coin [LUKE 15:8-10] and a lost son [LUKE 15:11-32]. The manner in which the sixteenth chapter opens leads me to understand that He immediately launched into a parable about a crooked manager [LUKE 16:1-9]. The application of the parable was again undoubtedly sobering. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” [LUKE 16:10-13].
The religious elite ridiculed what Jesus had said. Luke lets us know that they were motived by a love of money. In their estimate, God was blessing them when they accumulated wealth. Knowing their hearts, the Master rebuked them [LUKE 16:14-17]. Undoubtedly, Jesus’ words stung these proud arbiters of religious minutiae. However, He was setting the stage for what was to follow—condemnation far worse than anyone had ever spoken to them.
LUKE 16:18 seems almost undetached, as though Luke was simply collecting a number of sayings and throwing them wherever he could find a place for them. However, consider the context. Jesus had just been stressing the transition from what the religious leaders had known to that point—the Law—to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom He was heralding [see MARK 1:15]. He presented an example to emphasise the manner in which the Kingdom of God takes up, confirms and extends the imperatives of the Law and the Prophets. The religious people had lived under the Law to that point, but it was passing away and the Kingdom of God was being brought into being. The Pharisees, who should have been leading people into the Kingdom of God, resisted entering in. His words served as a warning that they were being passed by rapidly, and one example of their failure was the business of marriage and divorce.
Briefly, weigh the example Jesus employed. From the beginning, God had intended that man and woman would covenant before the Lord to unite their lives. They were to make a commitment to one another before the Lord God; and they were to keep that commitment inviolate. To break that commitment and remarry is to commit adultery. That is how serious this business of commitment is in the eyes of God. The text punctuates the importance of integrity in one of life’s basic aspects—marriage. Jesus is hurling a charge at the Pharisees, exposing the perfidy of their hearts.