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Parables Of The Master

Luke 17:1-10

The Unprofitable Servant

Reason is totally contrary to faith. In this section Jesus reveals that man by nature cannot possibly understand or grasp the things of God.

Jesus’ words make no sense in the real world. They are radical words of faith and loving service. We like to take pride in the things that we have done for Jesus. Many anniversary celebrations become endless recitations of personal and corporate accomplishments. Jesus reminds us that we are servants or slaves, and that there is no glory or reward in doing what we were supposed to do in the first place. At best we, through faith, will be able to say: “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do” (v. 10).

The first part of Luke 17 contains what might be called “hard sayings.” Jesus warns us against causing one of these little ones who believe in Him to sin–it would be better that a heavy grinding stone be hung around our neck and we be thrown into the sea.

Years ago some Norwegian preachers wore the large white collar to remind them of this millstone and the danger of offending (causing to sin) anyone while they were in the pulpit. And Jesus admits that “it is impossible that no offenses should come” (v. 1).

Jesus also warns us to watch out personally lest we fail to forgive our brother seven times in one day for the same offense. How many times are we willing to forgive the driver that cuts us off in heavy traffic? How many times will we allow someone to insult us or our family? How many times am I able to forgive–from the heart–my husband or my wife?

The disciples sighed under the impossible burden of these ‘hard sayings’ and complained to Jesus: “Increase our faith” (v. 5). Jesus reminds them and us that only faith can make us living extensions of Jesus’ love and His serving attitude. Faith, if necessary, could pull up this mulberry tree and plant it in the sea. The power of God alone, accessed by faith, is able to achieve the impossible.

But we should not then boast about our faith. There is that human tendency to take credit for what God has done through us. There is that human tendency to take credit for doing what we were supposed to do. It is a sign of the times that children expect to be praised for doing their chores at home or completing their homework assignments in school. It is even more revealing that we are surprised when children do what they are supposed to do and make a big deal about it.

Called To Serve

We are the servants of God called to serve Jesus in faith. Do we expect to be commended by God and man for doing our duty? Does the master thank the slave because he did those things that were commanded? Jesus says: “I think not”! (v. 9)

Even when we have served Jesus, this is no big deal or cause for pride. “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do” (v. 10). I am afraid that, like the Pharisees, many people are motivated to serve God by a sense of a reward of honor and praise in the eyes of men. By contrast, the faithful Christian, the faithful pastor, is unaware of doing anything special. We are servants simply doing what God has called us to do.

Remember, however, that Jesus turns things upside down. While no master would serve his slaves, Jesus, the Son of God, became the suffering Servant. Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient unto death for us.

Jesus will serve His faithful servants personally. “Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37). To those who have no thought of reward because they are servants, Jesus will do the unexpected and give them an eternal reward which none can claim by merit.

So we confess: “We are unprofitable servants.” May God give us faith to serve Jesus with no expectation of reward or special praise. May we simply be given the faith to do our duty as servants of Jesus Christ called to serve others as slaves of Jesus Christ.

–Pastor John Schierenbeck