Our Lord teaches in Luke 17:7-10 the true attitude of a servant.
“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:7-10).
Perhaps you have come across some well-meaning folks, in a display of piety, quoting the final two lines whenever they are praised or complimented for some good service they have performed.
“We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”
Perhaps we have ourselves quoted these lines.
While we ought not to bear evil suspicions of anyone’s intentions (cf. 1 Timothy 6:4), it is good for our souls to check our own intentions whenever we use these oft quoted lines from the Lord Jesus. Let others take care of their motives; we shall care for our own.
However long or short the number of years we have been members of the Lord’s body, the church, we could at times pause and ask ourselves: what have I achieved all these years as a Christian?
Surely, we know brethren who have an impressive ‘curriculum vitae’ as far as their areas of service go, and it is right to appreciate these brethren and remind ourselves that we too can contribute more in our service to the Lord.
But what makes for an achievement? Dictionary.com defines it as 1) “something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed; 2) the act of achieving; attainment or accomplishment.
Take a moment and consider these definitions with the words of the Lord, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.”
The Lord uses the word “unprofitable.” This is an interesting word for Him to choose. The Greek word, achreios, means “useless, good for nothing.” The word “unworthy” better expresses the meaning of the word in our modern English than “unprofitable.”
This is a rather strong expression for the Lord to use in describing the servant’s attitude, don’t you think?
Faithful, obedient service is no less than what our Lord deserves from us. We score no points with Him; we merit no credit whatsoever for rendering service we owe to our Lord and Master.
“We have done that which was our duty to do.” What have we done for the Lord and His church in the years, however long or short, as a Christian? Have we actually ‘achieved’ anything, in the sense of the word as popularly understood today?
Whatever “superior ability” we might imagine we possess, whatever special effort and great courage we might display; whatever we think we have attained or accomplished—what are these but “that which was our duty to do”?
If we should ever feel tempted to pat ourselves on the back whenever we are tempted to think of our “achievements” in the Lord, take a moment to ponder: “We are useless, good for nothing, unworthy servants: we have only done that which was our duty to do.”