United Presbyterian Church of West Orange


Date: October 2, 2022

Sermon Title: “Just Two Things”

By Minister Kimberly Braxton

Focus Scripture: Luke17:5-10



When I was in grad school I was required to take a teaching class. Now one of the course requirements was that we create a class plan and teach our fellow cohort. Now one of my classmates curated a class that was geared towards children about mustard seed faith. The verse we are dealing with today. Now, I will never forget presentation because at the end of her lesson she pulled out a tray of sprouted seedlings. She had told the class that she and her daughter had sprouted mustard seeds and she wanted to gift us each with a plant so that when we went home we could watch our faith grow.


Excellent presentation! What a showperson.


However, this morning I want to place the emphasis not on growing faith. Rather I want to draw our attention to the power of faith.

A power that it not based on size but on substance.


Point 1) Quality Over Quantity.  

Putting verse 5 into context it is a response to Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness in the previous verses. When the disciplines heard Jesus’ teaching about forgiveness they thought, “this is impossible” I mean it’s one thing to forgive a singular offense from one person. It’s a completely another level if I have to forgive the same person, in the SAME day (see verse 4), seven times. No… No….Put this illustration into a modern context. These are things that have happened to me over the course of my years commuting to New York:



1) stepped on my foot as I was getting on the train - I forgive you. 

2) tripped me walking up the stairs - I forgive you.

 3) pushed me to get in the subway - I forgive you.

4) stole my taxi - I forgive you.

5) Took my drink order at Starbucks - I forgive you

6) closed the elevator door on my face - I forgive you

 and finally

7) Refused to give up their seat on the subway while I was on crutches - I forgive you.


But all of offenses were individual, spread over time, committed by different nameless individuals that I didn’t have a relationship with. It was never the same person or as Jesus stated in Verse 3 “a brother or sister”. Think about your sibling, cousin or bestie if they did these seven things to you in a singularly day – forgiveness? – From me? Naw. The best I could say is that church would have to become intimately involved with the bail system…


This is why the disciples said in verse 5 “increase our faith” they felt like they would never be able to do it. But Jesus let them know that it wasn’t the size of their faith that mattered it was the quality of their that is important.


Think about this in a different way. In the US diamond market a study was done that found that on average US buyers preferred larger stones and the buyer was more likely to settle for a stone of lesser quality of it was bigger. But in Japan a larger diamond with more flaws is frowned upon. Those buyers would rather have a smaller stone that of higher quality. And in the end the value of a colorless, VVS flawless diamond that is smaller in size is worth more than a larger diamond that is cloudy, has a yellow tint with visible flaws. In the case of the later it legitimately is just a rock.


The disciples didn’t need an increase in the size of their faith. Because Jesus tells them if they had faith the size of a mustard seed they would be able to perform miraculous things. However what they needed was the willingness to obey the lesson that was being taught. Forgiveness was taught in the Old Testament but this new lesson…. Jesus Uggh it’s too hard! It may be difficult but I can do All Things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I can even give up the demand to be right, to be vindicated, to be able to point to a person, an offender and instantly judge them and say, “See what you did! You’re WRONG!”

But what did Jesus say earlier in Luke chapter 6, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Forgiveness is for our benefit.


Point # 2 - “Meets Expectations”.

For those of you who have never experienced the joy of sitting through a performance review at work stop right now and thank God. Because you are blessed and highly favored! The employee review process is one of the most frustrating aspects of corporate America. Not that it is hard but because it is so subjective. You can work for one person that thinks you are a superstar and “exceeds expectations” because you showed them how to use the “undo” feature in Word. But for another manager you can stop a building from burning, save the firm millions by finding some error, and come up with the ultimate marketing plan to increase sales 100 fold and that manager will rate you with a “meets expectations”. When you confront the unreasonable manager about the lower rating they will say – “Well that’s your job. That’s what you’re supposed to do.”


But God is not like this unreasonable manager. He is the only One that is able to Judge justly because He is God and can weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2). The servant in this text did everything that his master expected of him.


To quote Daniel Block, “service and obedience are not rights we negotiate with God to exercise.”  In Verse 7 Jesus details the tasks that the servant was performing either plowing or taking care of sheep. And when they come in from their tasks the Master doesn’t invite the servant to sit down and relax. Instead He tells them what to do next – and after they complete their work they can sit and eat and drink.


In our society there is a feeling that we are entitled to receive rewards for doing the bare minimum. It’s feels as if every task needs to be incentivized in order to inspire people to complete it. However Ephesians 2:8-9  it states “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”


There is a belief that has permeated in society and it goes like this “if I do good things then I am entitled to receive good things.” But the Book of Job and life of Jesus refutes that type of retribution theology. The motivation for doing good should be your desire to obey God’s commandments. Our obedience shouldn’t be predicated on the mistaken belief that we can manipulate God into blessing you. You obeyed. Wonderful. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Obedience should come from a willing and faithful heart.


A place of love, submission and surrender to the One Who is Able to keep you from falling, to the One that will supply all of your needs according to His Riches in glory, To the One that has promised to Protect you under the shadow of His wings, to the one who neither slumbers or sleeps. Obedience should come with no strings attached.  So when the Lord reviews your performance and says you’ve “meet expectations” you’ve done a really good job!