IN Luke 17:1-10 our Lord gives us certain precious truths along several different lines—capsules of consecrated teaching. He declares that offenses must come, “but woe to him by whom they come! Better that a millstone be hanged about his neck and he be cast into the sea.” Here we have Divine sovereignty and human free will. The fact that offenses must come does not absolve us from blame if we cause offense.
Next, Jesus declared that forgiveness must be unlimited and oft repeated without weariness. It often may be overlooked that He said, “If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him” first of all, then, “if he repent, forgive him.” We should tell our brother wherein he has offended us, and thereby ground may be reached for an understanding. That is better than to hide our resentment in the heart.
The apostles, no doubt seeing that this teaching on forgiveness called for more faith than they had, said, “Lord, increase our faith.” I want you to notice Jesus’ reply. He did not say He would increase their faith. What He did say was almost a reproof: “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamore tree, Be thou plucked up by the root and be thou planted in the sea, and it would obey you.” In other words: “It is not the quantity of faith that matters most. If you had even a little, you could be working wonders.” We want more faith when even the exercises of a little will do the impossible.
Then our Lord moved on to point out a lesson on duty. He illustrates it by the reference to servants who have worked all day and have done their duty, yet are asked to perform extra tasks outside their regular schedule. It is the principle of the “second mile” all over again. The first mile is obligation, the second is privilege. Some of us pride ourselves upon doing our duty, but here the Lord gives us this startling word: “We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” Has it ever occurred to you that you could do your duty and still be an unprofitable servant? How many pride themselves on duty and still are only like the Pharisees—servants, but knowing nothing of that “exceeding righteousness” which is Christ Himself.
It is that extra mile of doing things we don’t have to do that reveals the Christian spirit. How many are “one-mile” Christians at prayer, at Bible reading, in their giving, in church-going, in forgiving others? How many in trouble only bear and endure it and go not the second mile of victory? How many in temptation merely suppress and do not surpass? How many will not go the way of consecration and separation? Some will give money but will not give self. We have unduly gloried duty and have failed to see that only Christ within us is true righteousness—that all else is but legalism, though it may profess His name.