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In the first verse of Luke 17:5-10, the disciples ask Jesus to increase their faith. The beginning of Jesus's reply in 17:6 seems to be directly connected. But I am having trouble figuring out what 17:7-10 had to do with what was being said. This heavily implies I am not interpreting it correctly, as the Bible tends to make sense in context.

My interpretation of the parable is that God does not owe us anything because of what we do for Him. I just can't figure out what that has to do with the disciple's request for greater faith. There must be some commonly understood explanation for why Jesus said used this parable as part of his reply to the disciples' request, but I have been unable to find any easily web-available commentary that addresses the subject.

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3 Answers 3

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"Great Faith" is earned through lessons and hard work

Jesus was teaching them to do their duty first before they could start doing great things on their own. You cannot have great faith in a short time. It is through mistakes, trials, temptations and experience that faith is earned. It take years of experience in ministry that a man of God can have strong faith.

From Pulpit commentary

The little parable was to teach them that they were not to look to accomplishing great things by a strong faith given to them in a moment of time, but they were to labour on patiently and bravely, and afterwards, as in the parable-story, they too should eat and drink. It was to show them that in the end they should receive that higher faith they prayed for, which was to be the reward for patient, gallant toil.

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Thanks. The other answers were good for the title and providing more understanding but you directly addressed my issue in the question itself. –  trlkly Jan 11 at 20:32

Increase our Faith! = Make it Easier! (or Lighten the Burden!)

Just before the parable, Jesus says (paraphrasing, for brevity)

  • Don't be a stumbling block...or else!
  • Rebuke and forgive your brothers.
  • Forgive a brother even if he continually sins against you.

The disciples' response is, "Increase our faith!" (πιστις 4102, "trust" "belief" "conviction")

It sounds like the disciples want some help doing what Jesus is telling them to do, because he is not asking them to do something easy. They ask for faith, perhaps because believing better/trusting more would make it easier to endure the difficulties of the life to which Jesus is calling them.

In regards to doing good things, the disciples were at least occasionally at odds with each other about who was better. The parable about the servant is a way of saying that if you do all these good things, you are still only doing what Jesus has told you to do.

It's almost as if being a heroic Christian is the bare minimum. Increase my faith!

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While I now better understand why the disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith, and see how verses 7-10 fit with the overall message of the passage, I'm still having trouble seeing the connection between verses 6 and 7. –  trlkly Jan 11 at 11:22
If the disciples wanted more faith, it was at least in part to do great works. Perhaps Jesus saw this as a problem in two ways: they didn't understand that it doesn't take much real faith to do a lot; and doing great works doesn't make one great. –  mojo Jan 11 at 19:49
Good comment, and you really helped me with this passage. Unfortunately, Mawia helped me with the part I was having the most trouble with, so they get the "answer" designation. Still, I did give both of you an upvote, now that I have enough cred to do it. –  trlkly Jan 11 at 22:54

Not always can we understand the meaning of Scripture from a few verses or even from the contents of a single chapter, Some times we need to search many scriptures, in order to understand.

In this case we are going to have to consider many other things, The first thing we have to consider is in what situation Jesus made the statements;

Let's take a look at the whole situation, this conversation began with Jesus consorting with what was considered the dregs of society in that era.

Luke 15:1 and 2 KJV

1 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.

2 And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

In chapter 16 we find Jesus is talking about The unfaithful servant, and after that he is confronted by the Pharisees.

Luke 16:14 KJV

And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.

There is a key to the rest of this exchange in the next verse:

Luke 16:15 KJV

And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.

So what does that have to do with his answer to his disciples in chapter 17? Let's compare the rest of Chapter 17. Since the Pharisees were regarded by the public as being very righteous and one of the two parts of the ruling Sanhedrin.

Jesus had just gotten through giving them four lessons in the form of parables, on having humility, and telling the Pharisees that God did not approve of their seeking the accolades of men and not giving their worship the proper reverence.

And in verses 1 through 4 he had just given them a lecture about how they should show others the same grace that God showed to them.

Verse 5 is quite telling in that it shows that they were confused. The Pharisees spent most of their day praying and doing the work of the Temple. Certainly what they were asking Lord make us able to have more faith than the Pharisees.

Luke 17:5 KJV

And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.

In verse 6 he is telling them that the power of faith is stronger than the roots holding a sycamore tree in the ground, and that if they had a faith that even though it started out small it should grow until it was thousands of times greater.

Luke 17:6 KJV

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.

In verses 7 through 10 Jesus is saying they expect their servants to take care of their master's needs before they take care of their own needs, so how unreasonable is it of God to expect that they do his will before the take care of their own. and not only that, but since they think that that is the way their servants should act, why not think they owe god the same duty.

Luke 17:7 through 10 KJV

7 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?

8 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?

9 Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.

10 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.

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This extra context does help make the entire passage make more sense, but I'm still struggling with seeing how verse 6 connects with verse 7. –  trlkly Jan 11 at 11:18

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