Sunday, March 04, 2007

Planting Trees

Read this from Luke 17:7-10 ...

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
This is an unusual passage, is it not? I mean, I'm so very accustomed to hearing about how God has called me 'friend' -- and He has certainly done that. So in reading this today I found myself thinking how opposite this is from much of what we hear today. It is as if this text were implying that we aren't God's friends after all, that we are mere servents, and we'll do what we're told.

But that's an oversimplification of this text, I think, and interpreting it this way does not seem to line up with other parts of scripture.

So I looked at it again, and looked at the context a little closer. Check out the previous two verses (Luke 17: 5-6):

5The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" 6He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.
Jesus has just told His followers that they don't need much faith in order to do fairly amazing things. It is in the follow-up to this comment, then, that He points out that we shouldn't get a big head about using God's power. We have to be aware of the position we're in. Specifically, that God calls us to obey him, to serve him.

Of course, along the way He may call us to do some amazing things; to command a few trees to move, as it were. However, we shouldn't get confused into thinking we could ever serve him enough that He would somehow owe us a favor, or that He would let us use this amazing faith power to do things that serve ourselves, or that bring glory to ourselves.

See, God has called us friends, and He has blessed and served us in amazing ways, most notably through Jesus. But Jesus isn't speaking here of God's relationship to us. He's speaking of our relationship to God. No matter how good, how righteous we live our lives, we cannot be good enough to earn anything from God. In the end, we are unworthy servants. And if we've been obedient to God, it is because there is no other way to respond to what He has done for us.

Perhaps that's why we don't see even our most faithful brothers and sisters throwing out their gardening gloves, shovels, etc, relying instead on verbal commands to their garden plants as to where to be and grow. Jesus wasn't suggesting that God was going to give us a magic wand to serve ourselves. He was simply saying that it takes very little faith to do amazing things -- but the amazing things will be God's things, not ours, at His discretion, in His timing.

But I must confess, when I was planting a little tree in my back yard this past week, I'd sure like to have been able to just tell the tree to get in the ground.