Unworthy Servant – Luke 17:7-10

Servant Or Slave? Some would argue that it’s not at all a good nor reasonable thing to refer to a Christian as a slave of Christ. The word slave after all can invoke some rather negative feelings.  What we associate with slavery is harsh masters, cruel conditions, poor treatment and regarding human life as an equivalent to that of an animal or perhaps even lower. Slaves were purchased and ripped away from their homes, carted off to far away lands and abused, they were purchased and used solely for the purpose of their master’s gain.

Christ on the other hand is just the opposite. We were slaves to sin through our own evil and corrupt nature, like Adam and Eve we dove in head first lapping it up by the mouthful unknowingly, being shackled to its demands. Sin commanded us to do and we did. Sin abused us and we would grieve often times over the outcome and the consequences that ensued, yet we enjoyed and cuddled right back up to our nasty master, being swallowed deeper and deeper still into its dark pit. Thankfully we have been ransomed by a great and kind Master, One, who unlike the slave trader that gains a slave for His own profit, gained us for our profit.

He became poor so that we might become rich, and that not of material wealth but of spiritual wealth and prosperity that we would gain godliness, righteousness,  forgiveness, entrance into the heavenly kingdom, and a share in His reign. He suffered to purchase us, He was despised and rejected by men so that we could be adored and accepted by God. His loss was our gain and our gain was His glory. Jesus turns the systems of servants and slaves on its head, a system where the servant knows full well what he deserves but in turn receives what he does not. Every Christian alive should, because of love, be motivated to relentlessly labour for the Lord; not seeking comfort, break or reward, but persevering through thick and thin knowing that we have already obtained our reward through the promise.

The promise of eternal life is far more than we could have ever hoped to deserve, yet so many times we find ourselves drawn to books and authors who tell us that God is our sugar daddy waiting to bless us with all the earthy comforts we could possibly dream of. Your best life now is waiting on a shelf for you to enjoy and all you have to do is reach out and grab it. That sounds a lot like heaven though doesn’t it? Jesus assured us that this life was not going to be like heaven at all “In this world you will have trouble“, not a bit like heaven actually. We have a mandate as Christians and that is to work as hard and as long as we are able for our King who graciously bought us with His blood, raising us from death to life.

Luke 17:7-10 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’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”

Our Place Of Humility: The servant’s place is never sitting around wining and dining with the master. The servant’s place is serving that master. It’s far too easy to lose sight of the fact that we are Christ’s servants and begin believing popular opinions that Christ is ours. Works righteousness people will tell you that if you serve God well He will serve you, bless you, favor you, and hang out with you at His table. Christ’s table, where we will feast with Him, is in the end of this age and until then we are to be His humbled servants who serve Him day and night and from one job to the next.

The Plowman & Shepherd: What do I know of a plowman? Not much I guess other some of the movies I’ve seen set in the pioneer days. These men would work exhausting hours behind beasts of burden in order to get the job complete in time for planting. It’s a job that has no perks, it’s filthy dirty, and the reward of their hands takes many months to produce fruit for their homes. Likewise, shepherds would spend long hours in the pastures tending to the sheep. It was a very tiresome job keeping watch over their sheep by night. The shepherds job was to protect the sheep at all costs, they could not fall asleep or it could mean that night prowlers would start picking their sheep off one at a time.

With these two examples Jesus expresses that there is a large variety of jobs to do in His kingdom. His servants are required to roll up their sleeves and sweat, not being afraid to get dirty. The majority of the jobs we do for the Lord will not come with any fanfare, in fact they will most often go unnoticed. The ones that do come with rock-star status should be wept over daily in order to remain in a humbled state. George Whitefield was a preacher who had a lot to do with the Great Awakening in Great Britain. He preached over sixteen thousand messages (most of them outdoors) and it was noted that his voice could be heard more that a mile away. He preached often to crowds of twenty and thirty thousand people at a time. God used this man mightily for His glory. In other words, the job he was given was not cleaning the toilets in the church. Yet this man knew his weaknesses and stressed daily about them, so much so that he eventually handed his ministry over to his friends, the Wesley brothers. Please read the recorded following prayers that he prayed. Some of these have been taken from his journals.

Shortly after his conversion he prayed this:

O Heavenly Father, for Thy dear Son’s sake, keep me from climbing. Let me hate preferment. For Thine infinite mercies’ sake, let me love a low contemptible life, and never think to compound matters between the happiness of this world and the next.

“God alone knows how deep a concern entering the ministry and preaching was to me. I have prayed a thousand times, till the sweat has dropped from my face like rain, that God… would not let me enter the Church before he calls me and thrust me into his work. I remember once in Gloucester, I know the room, I look up at the window when I am there; I know the window, the bedside and the floor upon which I have lain prostrate. I said, Lord, I cannot go; I shall be puffed up with pride and fall into the snare of the devil”

This he wrote during the height of his popularity:

The tide of popularity began to run very high. In a short time I could no longer walk on foot as usual, but was constrained to go in a coach from place to place, to avoid the hosannas of the multitude. They grew quite extravagant in their applause’s, and had it not been for my compassionate High Priest, popularity would have destroyed me. I used to plead with Him to take me by the hand and lead me unhurt through this fiery furnace. he heard my request and gave me to see the vanity of all commendations but His own.

After being praised in a letter from the people of Bristol, he wrote:

O pray, dear Mr Harris, that God would always keep me humble and fully convinced that I am nothing without Him, and that all the good which is done upon earth, God doeth it Himself…. Sanctify it, Holy Father, to Thine own glory and Thy people’s good.

Here is the final quote:

“Let the name of Whitefield perish, but Christ be glorified” . . . “Let my name die everywhere, let even my friends forget me, if by that means the cause of the blessed Jesus may be promoted” . . . “But what is Calvin, or what is Luther? Let us look above names and parties; let Jesus be our all in all – So that He is preached . . . . I care not who is uppermost. I know my place . . . Even to be the servant of all” . . . “I am content to wait till the judgement day for the clearing up of my reputation; and after I am dead I desire no other epitaph than this, ‘Here lies G.W. What sort of man he was the great day will discover’”

It is safe to say that George Whitfield even through the intense popularity that he received, considered himself an unworthy servant not willing to receive thanks for simply doing the duty he had been given from the Lord. Whatever the Lord calls us to do and however often He requests us to switch jobs, we are called to be thankful, humble, unworthy servants of the most high King.

Our Reward: Jesus emphasizes that after our labouring in the fields we are not called upon to relax at His table but to change our clothes and suit up for our next service to Him. Our rewards are not for the here and now but for the there and after, “afterward you will eat and drink“. Afterward is when we retire from our duties, when we breathe our last breath and enter into our rest. May God grant us the patience, humility, endurance and thankfulness to say “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty”.

Grace & Peace
Shane Martin
Preparing The Way.