Faith and Service
(Matthew 18.6,7,21,22; Mark 9.42)
1Jesus said to his disciples:
There will always be something that causes people to sin. But anyone who causes them to sin is in for trouble. A person who causes even one of my little followers to sin 2would be better off thrown into the ocean with a heavy stone tied around their neck. 3 So be careful what you do.
Correct any followers of mine who sin, and forgive the ones who say they are sorry. 4Even if one of them mistreats you seven times in one day and says, “I am sorry,” you should still forgive that person.
5The apostles said to the Lord, “Make our faith stronger!”
If you had faith no bigger than a tiny mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to pull itself up, roots and all, and to plant itself in the ocean. And it would!
7If your servant comes in from plowing or from taking care of the sheep, would you say, “Welcome! Come on in and have something to eat”? 8No, you wouldn't say that. You would say, “Prepare me something to eat. Get ready to serve me, so I can have my meal. Then later on you can eat and drink.” 9Servants don't deserve special thanks for doing what they are supposed to do. 10And that's how it should be with you. When you've done all you should, then say, “We are merely servants, and we have simply done our duty.”
This passage can be a challenging one for those of us who struggle with issues of self-esteem and self-worth. I just came from talking to a close friend whose life is crumbling. She has never felt like she was good enough. She has never truly believed that she was loveable to anyone – especially God. So she’s tempted to skip over teachings like this, because to her they read like yet another rebuke.
But I don’t think that’s what Jesus was going for here. Here, Jesus is warning us not to let our secure place as his beloved lead us to a sense of entitlement. He’s saying, watch yourself. Check yourself. Yes, things may come along which cause us to stumble, but we are not to do the same to others. Yes, people will keep hurting us, but we must continue to forgive. And don’t wait until God increases your faith, the little faith you can muster is enough.
For those who think that they can sit back, reap the blessings that God bestows, and yet not live up to God’s call to a life of discipleship – think again. That would be like the new temp at work expecting applause for turning on the coffee pot, or taking the afternoon off because he successfully managed the emails. We each have our responsibilities and our duties in this new life of Christ.
And for my friend who is struggling? I would also point out that Jesus does not – ever – call us slaves. We have our work to do. We do our work. Then, we stop for the day, and share in his rest.
Dear Jesus, I’m sorry for the many times I have been spiritually lazy, have failed to forgive and have been a stumbling block to the faith of others. Help me to do the work you have set before me, and thank you for the faith you have given me. Amen