Podcast Reflections

Reflection on Luke 17.7-10

Listen to a reflection on Luke 17.7-10, the gospel reading set for DEL Week 32: Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Luke 17.7-10

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’


Today’s reading contains some very difficult language. In our modern society we struggle with the use of the word ‘slave’. In order that we might overcome this barrier to engaging with today’s reading we need to understand that the word ‘slave’ is not just about the subjugation of the weak. This emotive word also describes someone who works tirelessly; someone who is submissively devoted to another. In the 21st century we focus on the negative but, when viewed in a wider context, ‘slave’ and ‘faithful follower of Christ’ can be seen as being closer in meaning than our natural instincts might imagine.

In some modern translations of the Bible, the Greek word doulos is translated as ‘servant’. But, this is incorrect. Doulos has only one translation, and that is ‘slave’. Rather than becoming obsessed with what humanity has created in the vile slave trade and other forms of exploitation and abuse, we need to pause and think about Jesus’ use of the word.

Jesus calls us to work tirelessly in his service. Jesus calls us to celebrate and utilise our God-given gifts and talents in his name. Sometimes that work will lead us into challenging, and even threatening, places. However, we need to remember that Jesus is not asking to do anything he has not done for us. He is not asking us to travel any road in this world that he has not trod before.

We may well find ourselves wondering why we should cast ourselves in the role of ‘slave’? The answer to that question lies in our faith in the one who came and sacrificed himself for the whole of humanity. Jesus came to earth to bring forgiveness and the promise of eternal life … a future so much better than any present we can create for ourselves. In Roman society, slaves had a future! Whilst not a glamorous ‘career path’ for the majority, Roman slaves did reach a point where they could earn their freedom. This offers us another positive parallel with the life of a faithful Christian. No matter what we may have to endure in this world, if we endure it in Christ’s name, there is an eternity of glorious and victorious freedom awaiting us in God’s nearer presence.

Today we are called to ask ourselves whether: we have done only what we ought to have done? Or, are we falling short? Are we ready to be faithful ‘slaves’ of God, or are we too arrogant and lacking in humility to be the faithful and submissive ‘slave’ of Christ that is the calling we all share?