Unprofitable Servants – by Eliezer Gonzalez
- Bible study
- Christian Evidences
- Christian Living
- Dr Eliezer Gonzalez
- New Testament
Aug 24, 2015 1977
Jesus says said pretty tough things at times! The passage below is probably not one that you have ever heard preached about. It is a “hard word” from Jesus. It is one of those passages in the gospels that your read once and then turn your head sideways and think to yourself, “Huh??? Why did Jesus say that?
5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? 8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’” – Luke 17:5–11, NKJV
Oh yes, we have heard plenty of sermons on verses 5 and 6, about having faith like a mustard seed, but not about the rest of this passage. We kind of like to stop Jesus in his tracks just as he is launching into what he is trying to say. We like the first bit but not what comes next.
Let me review what is going on here. The disciples as Jesus to increase their faith. Jesus tells them that even if they have the tiniest of faith, they will be able to do incredible things. And then Jesus immediately assumes that they will do those things, and his whole point he wants the disciples to understand that it is entirely his (Jesus’) doing and not theirs.
Jesus says to the disciples that if they have a slave working out in the fields, they don’t say to the slave when he comes in, “Sit down and have something to eat.” Instead, they say to the slave, “Serve me dinner, and then you can have yours.” And then Jesus says that they even thank the slave, because he was only doing what he was commanded to do.
And then the punch-line; Jesus says, when you have done the things that I have commanded you to do (the works of faith), then you should say to yourselves, “We are worthless servants. We have only done what was our duty.”
Wow! That doesn’t sit too well with what is preached in a lot of churches today, along the lines of self-improvement and positive thinking, does it?
So how are we to understand this?
What Jesus is doing is honing in on a truth with laser-like accuracy, even to the exclusion of other truths. And by doing it he is zeroing in on the spiritual pride that seems to dominate so much of what is called Christianity.
We so are proud of our churches, proud of our ministries, proud of our Christianity, proud of what we do for Jesus, proud of how much we give in the offering bag, so proud that we are better than others who do not have the privilege of doing these things. But Jesus says,
“Wait a minute! Hold on there! Don’t you know that it is all my doing? Don’t you know that I owe you nothing and you owe me everything? Don’t you realise that without me you, and all you do, simply total zero? So don’t be so proud about the things you do for me. Start from the basis that you are simply doing your duty, a duty that is owed to me because you have been acquitted and blood-bought only by what I have done.”
It is because Jesus did his duty of love that we are precious, and even useful in his sight. And so we must confess ourselves to be worthless servants in everything we do, and respond to his love with the humble selfless performance of duty to him.
And here is the really good bit! Remember that I said that in this passage Jesus is honing in on one great truth to the exclusion of other truths. Well, those other truths are that he does not treat us as slaves, but as his children, and even more, as heirs (Gal 4:7).
He has prepared a table of goodness and mercy before us all the days of our lives. Our cups overflow. And he has prepared a banquet for us all to enjoy in heaven, where we will be the bride of honour (Rev 19:9).
This banquet will only be for those who confess themselves to be “unprofitable servants.” Because the only ones who can understand that and confess it are those who have understood the gospel.
– Eliezer Gonzalez