The Unprofitable Servant

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:7-10)

We have seen in other Parables where Jesus used the master and servant relationship to teach His disciples in their service to God. We saw the importance of forgiveness in the “Unmerciful Servant.” (Matthew 18:21-35) His condemnation of the mercenary spirit of service in the “Laborers in the Vineyard.” (Matthew 20:1-16) The need for faithful and fruitful service in “The Talents.” (Matthew 25:14-30) In our study this week of the “Unprofitable Servant” we again see the use of the master and servant relationship. This Parable answers the question of what should be our attitude in our service for the Lord.

As we look at this Parable we may feel there is a disconnection from the passage that has preceded it. “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:5-6) Jesus in describing the power of faith and we can see that it would be easy for the disciples to fall into a snare of pride. Therefore Jesus followed with a Parable that would put things into proper perspective.

Jesus is challenging His disciples to consider how they would act towards a servant. As the master none of the decuples would invite their servant to sit down and eat with them. As the master they would expect the servant to prepare the meal and serve it to them and eat only after they had finished themselves. Neither would any of them as the master take the consideration to thank the servant for doing what had been commanded of him.

This Parable is an example of their attitude that they should have as to what they do as servants. When they have completed the work that has been commanded of them they should have a view of themselves as “unprofitable servants.” That is they have only done that which was commanded of them and nothing worthy of special merit.

We are not to look at this Parable as an example of the proper attitude of the master. The example of the master in this Parable is the normal expectation of masters in order for Jesus to make His point. Jesus had already told His disciples what He as the Master would do for His servants. “Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. “Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. “Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.” (Luke 12:35-37)

The purpose of this Parable is to illustrate the proper attitude of the servant. As servants who have completed all that we have been commanded to do we have do nothing that would merit us any special reward. We have only accomplished our duty as servants. Whatever rewards we might receive is not based upon merit but on grace. This Parable is an illustration of the attitude we should have in our service to God. As Christians we have been bought at a price, “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) We are servants and therefore should have the proper attitude of servitude towards our Lord and Savior.

The point of this Parable should remove any thought that we can earn our salvation. Keeping the commandments of God are extremely important but they do not in any way earn our salvation. “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:4-5)

After all that we do and will do in the service of the King we are still unprofitable servants. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” (Isaiah 64:6) When we receive our reward it is not by anything that we have done but comes to us by the grace of God.

Our obedience to God’s commandments is essential, as it is a manifestation of the love that we have for Him who first loved us. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) Obedience to the commands of God is our expected service to our Lord. “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:10) Keeping the commandments of God is what matters as we are operating in the good work that we were called to do. It is vital to our testimony in the ministry of the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:19) If we say that we know the Lord Jesus Christ yet do not keep His commandments we have shown ourselves to be liars. “The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4)

The Parable of the “Unprofitable Servant” reminds us of the need for obedience. As only those who do the will of the Father will enter into the Kingdom of God. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matthew 7:21)

We as Christian are to observe and obey all that Christ has commanded us to do. “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Jesus is the author and perfect of salvation. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus is the source of our salvation and we must obey Him. “And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” (Hebrews 5:9)

Jesus is coming soon and those who have not obeyed His gospel will face everlasting punishment. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

The truth is Jesus is the source of our salvation and it cannot be bought, earned, or labored for. There is no price that can be paid for the Son of God going to the cross of Calvary. No matter what we do in His service, great or small, leaves us an “unprofitable servant.” All that we do in the service of Jesus is our duty to Him as His servants. Therefore whatever we receive from Him is given through His grace towards us. “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 4, 2017

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