Lamentations 1:1-6; Psalm 137 (or Lamentations 3:13-26); (or Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4; Psalm 37:1-10); 2 Timothy 1:1-14; Luke 17:5-10
“Gratitude is a duty which ought to be paid, but which none have a right to expect.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Who is Jesus talking to with all this stuff about a slave owner not expected to thank the slaves (see Greek below)? He’s the owner and they are just doing what they were purchased to do. After all, they are his property. This parable can’t be about us. We don’t have any slaves. And it is doubtful that the people hanging around Jesus, listening to him, had any slaves either. This man in the story is certainly an exaggerated character. Some of us may relate to him, especially if we treat people like property. If we do, then we have some serious issues requiring therapy. But before we write off this story, let’s look at the slaves (see Greek below). We are the slaves. God owes us nothing. We don’t live a decent life in keeping with God’s will in order to receive thanks, to be rewarded. We are just doing what we ought to do. On a metaphysical level, we are simply being ourselves. The only reward we should expect for doing our duty is the ability to fulfill another. However, there are two sides to all this. On the one hand, we don’t expect thanks. But on the other hand, we are grateful for what others do, even if they are only doing what they ought to do. If we expect thanks for ourselves, it might be difficult to value others, since we are carrying heavy self-centered luggage. By appreciating others we are admiring God’s creation. The central act of worship in Christianity is the Eucharist. The word means thanksgiving. If we are Eucharistic people we will not only worship by eating bread and drinking wine at church. We will also be giving thanks day in and day out. As an act of worship discipline, let’s make sure we thank someone every day for what they do and for who they are. Then when we gather for the church Eucharist (Thanksgiving) we will really have something for which to be grateful.
Most translations of Luke 17:9 say does he “thank” the slave. However, the Greek literally says does he have “grace” or “favor” to the slave. Well, since our fellow humans are not our slaves, we might do well to treat each other with grace and favor.
The word used throughout this passage is not “servant” (diakonos) but “slave” (doulos). “doulos” is sometimes translated “servant,” but there is a significant difference between the two words, which is clear in the two English words.
What we ought, we do.
Ourselves we are now, God’s slaves.
Look round, grateful be.