“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 17:10 ESV)
It’s nice to be acknowledged for the things that we do. It makes us feel good when people honor us for our achievements. However, in our society today, this is taken to an extreme. We seem to feel that we deserve acknowledgement and honor for everything that we do.
Children feel that they should be rewarded for getting good grades in school. They feel that they should be honored for good attendance. They fail to understand that the opportunity to receive a good education is a blessing. And, in response to this blessing, good attendance and good grades are a duty.
In the same way, they feel that they should receive a trophy for participating in sports. They fail to understand that it’s a blessing to be on the team. And, in response to this blessing, a determined effort to help the team succeed is an obligation.
The same mindset follows us into adulthood. If we do well in college, we feel that we’re deserving of a good job. If we perform well on the job, we feel that we deserve a grand title, a pay raise, or a promotion. We fail to understand that having a good job is a blessing. And it’s our duty to give our greatest effort in response to this blessing.
We also tend to think this way in our life of faith. We think that we should be commended by God for every act of service we perform. Because of our service, we feel entitled to his blessing. And we think that we should be honored by those we serve.
Our feelings about this are so strong that, if acknowledgement isn’t given, we feel slighted. We feel that our efforts have been in vain. We feel devalued and disregarded. And we tend to give up and cease in our efforts.
Jesus addresses this mindset in Luke 17. He uses the picture of a man and his servant to make his point. He points out that, when the servant comes in after a hard day’s work, he isn’t invited to sit down to enjoy a meal. It’s expected that he will prepare supper, dress properly, and serve his master. And only after his duties are completed is he able to eat and drink.
Jesus also points out that the servant is not thanked for what he has done. He is not thanked because he’s merely done his job. He’s done nothing more than his duty.
In the same way, he tells us, we shouldn’t expect commendation for the things we’ve done. Instead, we’re to acknowledge that we’re unworthy servants. We’re to acknowledge that we’ve done only our duty.
This is very true. We must always bear in mind that the only thing we deserve is death and hell. We must bear in mind that, because of what he’s done for us, the Lord is deserving of our faithfulness.
This can be a tough pill to swallow. God does not owe us anything because of our service. The simple fact of the matter is that, because of what he has done for us, God is deserving of our service. We have been saved by his grace and mercy, and for this reason he is deserving of our honor.
If God then honors us, it’s only because of his grace. If he blesses us, it’s only because of his mercy. We are nothing more than undeserving servants who’ve done nothing more than fulfill our obligations.