Luke 17:6-10

Luke 17:6 (KJB)
And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.

When fear builds, faith recedes, and vice versa. Remember the mustard seed is about 1mm large and the mustard plant which grows from it, grows to height of 600 times the size of the seed. So the Lord is telling them that even faith, if it is the size of a mustard seed and if that faith is upon the Lord Jesus Christ, then you will be able to move mountains with it. Here the Lord Jesus Christ uses the sycamine tree which was the black mulberry tree which was common in Palestine and reached a height of 30 feet (9 meters) and was known for its deep roots. Jesus states that enough faith would be able to just say to the sycamine tree be uprooted with your deep roots and be planted in the sea and it would obey you. That is faith, when an inanimate object like a tree will respond to words of faith.

In fact, nothing shall be impossible for the Christian. Unfortunately, too much faith is diluted by fear and that removes the effectiveness of faith. When Peter had walked upon the water and had his eyes on Jesus, he had the faith that he would be fine but as soon as he started looking at the situation of the storm around him, his faith failed because fear took over. Fear and faith cannot occupy the same space at the same time.

Luke 17:7 (KJB)
But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?

Jesus then finished this set of teachings with an illustration that related the nature of faith to actions. He asks a question which would elicit an obvious answer of “no” or “of course not” which sets the stage for the message of the teaching. Jesus starts by asking the people if they had a servant who was engaged in the duties of the estate and then when he comes in from the field, you tell him to sit down at the table and to eat supper. In other words, who would say to their servant, sit down and I will wait on you?

Luke 17:8 (KJB)
And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?

Instead the one who owned the slave or the servant would not have them sit down and eat dinner the minute they come in from the field. They would have the servant get ready and prepare the evening meal for the owner of the house. Once he has eaten and drunken, then afterward the servant would have the opportunity to sit down and eat. As the master, the servants would fix his dinner before they would fix their own. This may seem a little harsh to us but back in those days, it was the normal slave/master relationship.

Luke 17:9 (KJB)
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.

The servant is subject to his master and if he does what is required of him, does he get a thank you for doing those things which he was commanded to do? Jesus answers His own question, “I trow or think not.” The slave deserved and received no special treatment for doing those assigned tasks. He was expected to prepare the master’s evening meal, even after a long, hard day at work.

Luke 17:10 (KJB)
So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Then Jesus places the disciples in the shoes of the servant. When we live out our Christian life, we are doing our duty and we should not expect a special commendation from God for doing it. There are many who think they are going to receive special rewards in Heaven for living the Christian life but this verse teaches us that as Christians, we have nothing to boast about because we have received salvation, we did not initiate it. This verse also applies directly to the Pharisees who believed their good works would gain them a divine commendation. They believed that God rewarded the righteous materially.

Jesus repudiated the view of the Pharisees and also wanted to teach the disciples correctly that good works was our duty and there is no way that anyone can place God in their debt. We basically are unprofitable servants because one minute we are doing the will of God and the next we are sinning because of the sin nature still in us. We do things out of the will of God and for wrong motives. It is these things which cause us to be unprofitable. Yet, despite us, God still works out His magnificent salvation plan on earth until the last one is saved.