Luke 17:7

ESV “Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?
NIV Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'?
NASB Now which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him after he comes in from the field, ‘Come immediately and recline at the table to eat’?
CSB "Which one of you having a servant tending sheep or plowing will say to him when he comes in from the field, 'Come at once and sit down to eat'?
NLT When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’?
KJV 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?

What does Luke 17:7 mean?

This chapter collects Jesus' expectations of His disciples as they lead other Christians. Luke 17:1–4 describes their responsibilities regarding the sin of others. Luke 17:5–6 assures them it only takes a little faith to accomplish this hard work. Here, Jesus warns that the disciples may be leaders in God's kingdom, but they are God's servants. Expecting additional rewards for doing their job is not appropriate.

It's interesting that Jesus immediately compares His disciples to those who plow and those who keep sheep. Earlier, He compared evangelists to harvesters (Luke 10:2). Later, Paul will talk about the many roles involved in spreading the gospel, saying:
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:5–7).
The term used for "shepherd" in the New Testament comes into English as the word "pastor" (Ephesians 4:11). When Jesus reconciles with Peter, He tells him three times to tend to and feed His lambs and sheep (John 21:15–17). It's no accident that Jesus compares two prominent positions in the church—pastor and evangelist—to servants who must labor hard in difficult circumstances.

In Paul's rebuke of the Corinthians, he goes on to say that at judgment day those who worked for God will be rewarded for that work (1 Corinthians 3:8–9). In this passage, Jesus warns the disciples to work in humility without expectation of reward. The two ideas are not mutually exclusive. Jesus' followers will be rewarded as He sees fit (Matthew 20:1–16), but the disciples have a habit of arguing over who is the greatest—who should receive the rewards of renown and responsibility—in God's kingdom (Luke 9:46–48).

That is not why Christians are to serve. We serve because we have accepted Jesus as our Lord. Even if salvation and eternity with God were all the reward given, that would be infinitely more than we deserve.

And yet, Jesus adds hints of heaven in His parable. "Recline at table" suggests the grand feast at the resurrection (Revelation 19:9). "Dress properly" may refer to the white robes His followers will wear (Revelation 3:5). Jesus' followers will feast after our work is done but because of the grace of God, not because of the work.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: