Scripture: “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.'” Luke 17:7-10 ESV
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Observation: Recapping Yesterday’s Daily Focus, Jesus tells an allegory aimed at the Pharisees about a rich and a poor man in their afterlife. As the story goes, the rich man indulged in fine clothing and food while ignoring the needs of an impoverished man named Lazarus, who suffered terribly from malnutrition. Both men died, and while the rich man agonized in Hades, angels ushered Lazarus into heaven, where he found comfort by Abraham’s side. So the rich man cries out to Abraham and requests Lazarus to come and ease his torment. But Abraham reminds the rich man that he indulged in luxuries in his earthly life and has reaped his just reward. And despite the rich man’s pleas to warn his brothers, Abraham poignantly counters that there are no second chances to repent in the afterlife.
For today’s reading, Jesus, building on his teachings of repentance and faith, presents a reality check to his disciples regarding their attitudes. Through analogy, Jesus reminds them that a servant should not expect equality with their master nor gratitude for fulfilling their duty. Instead, they should display humility by expressing their unworthiness and acknowledging that they have only done their duty.
Takeaway: This is Jesus’ third teaching on servanthood in Luke. In 12:35-37, Jesus presents a reversal of standard protocol for a master and his servants. Those who stay vigilant and perform their duties while their master is away will be welcomed and attended to by their master when he returns—pointing us to Jesus’ mission to serve God’s people by giving his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) and to his return at the end of the age. In 12:42-48, Jesus teaches that a faithful servant in this life will receive his master’s blessings. Still, the unfaithful will face painful consequences according to their awareness and understanding. Moreover, the master will expect more of those with greater skills and resources. In our passage, Jesus does not demean the role of a servant but emphasizes their rightful godly attitude: humility and gratitude for the opportunity to serve their Lord and Savior.
Our takeaway? If we bristle at passages like the above, it may indicate that we have lost sight of our priceless freedom in Christ. Indeed, our Servant King rescued us from our destructive paths of sin-based self-centeredness that would otherwise lead us to relentless suffering, eternally separated from all that is good and beautiful in Christ. But when we maintain perspective and deepen our understanding of the Father and Son’s love and grace for us, we mature in our gratitude for how Jesus served us and continues to do so through the guidance, comfort, and accountability of his Holy Spirit. And as our understanding of our relationship and responsibilities as servants of Christ matures, we no longer demand affirmation and accolades or debase ourselves but, like John the Baptist, rest in the assurance that we are worthy because Christ is worthy (see Mark 1:7). And from this mindset, we find satisfaction in knowing we are doing our duty as we follow in the footsteps of our Master, a journey rewarding in itself.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who always did his duty to his last breath. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit, who strengthens and guides us in performing our duties. Still, we confess that we are prone to ingratitude and grumbling when life is not going to our plans. So would you please instill the mindset of humble servitude in us so that we might rise above entitlement attitudes or self-pity and learn to be content in doing our duty? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling