Unprofitable Servants


(Taken from The Gospel of Luke by G. Campbell Morgan and comments on Luke 17)

He knew that if men have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that if they have the faith which can remove mountains, there is a danger of pride.

Therefore He said:

"When ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.”

This He introduced by a parable of contrast. He said:

"Whom is there of you, having a servant -and the word is doulos, it is a slave-" having a slave plowing or keeping sheep, that will say unto him, when he is come in from the field, Come straightway and sit down to meat," and I will wait on you.

Won't he rather say, Get ready for me, and when I have eaten, then you may eat?

"Doth he thank the servant because he did the things that were commanded?”

With that little parable in mind, let us go back for a moment in Luke's Gospel. In chapter twelve, we read,

"Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord, when he shall return from the marriage feast; that, when he cometh and knocketh, they may straightway open unto him. Blessed are those servants.” that is the same word, douloi. “Blessed are those slaves, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching; verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and shall come and serve them."

There He was speaking of Himself, and He declared that when His servants' days' work is over, He will make them sit down, and He will wait on them. Here He said, Can you conceive a situation like that? Is that the ordinary thing? It was a parable in contrast. He was showing them the ways of the world. He had already told them what He would do with them. He was warning them against pride in spiritual power. He had just said, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you will see mighty things done. Now He said in effect: Don't forget when you see the mighty things done, because you have faith that is a living faith, you are not to take any credit for the things you have done. You are to be delivered from pride even in the hour of spiritual victory, for even at the best, we are unprofitable servants, and we have only done our duty. The marvel is that presently He will do for us what earthly lords never do for their slaves. But it will be wholly of grace, nothing we have a right to claim, nothing which ought to give us for one moment the lifted chin, or an air of braggadocio, or the strut of pride. I wonder if we believe that. Service that looks for reward is selfish. Yet how often we talk of the rewards that are coming. To serve for reward is not Christian, but anti-Christian. He emptied Himself. He served for "the joy that was set before Him.” Yes, but what was the joy? The joy of lifting other people, and blessing them.

Note: A friend once said to me that there are 3 basic rules to the interpretation of scripture: Context, Context, Context. This is so apparent in a review of the above commentator's work. He never forgets "the before and after" as he takes on these key passages.

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