Serving the Lord can be very hard, so we always need to see it in the light of the gospel.
7 ‘Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? 8 Won’t he rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? 9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”’
At first reading, this parable can make you feel quite uneasy. It sounds so oppressive. You can’t help thinking of the poor servant (lit. slave) working all day in a hot field. He staggers into the homestead tired, hungry and thirsty. The master expects him to prepare and serve a meal. Then he must wait for the master to finish before he can rest, eat and drink himself. What makes this so difficult is that Jesus doesn’t say, “This is outrageous, the master is cruel and oppressive! Don’t ever behave like that!” Instead, he passes by all of that and appears to use it as an illustration for us to serve, not complain and not expect any thanks or encouragement as we do so.
There are a few thoughts we need to introduce here to quieten our sense of injustice. Jesus doesn’t say a master behaving like this is doing what is right. He merely describes what would have been familiar to everyone at that time. The work situation also had a lot of parallels to the spiritual lives of the Pharisee dominated people of Judah. Trying to find peace with God by keeping the law was miserable drudgery which seemed never to end. None of their spiritual masters were about to provide any encouragement and there was no peace with God!
When we think of this in the light of the gospel it makes wonderful sense. While Jesus uses it to illustrate how we are to serve, there are huge differences between a servant in first century Judah and a Christian serving the Lord. The key is the matter of motivation. We don’t serve our Lord in order to win his favour. Nor do we serve him in order to survive. Rather we have his favour through the saving work of our Lord Jesus. We serve as people who have all the riches of the kingdom of God for all eternity. We serve out of loving gratitude for all that has been done for us. We don’t deserve any of God’s goodness, so we are “unworthy servants” but overwhelmingly blessed ones. Whatever we might be asked to do by our Lord cannot even slightly repay our debt of love and gratitude to him.
Head: It is always helpful for us to look at life as we deserve it from God because of our sin (i.e. utter rejection) and compare that with what we have by God’s grace in Christ (i.e. every spiritual blessing forever).
Heart: In the light of the Lord’s goodness to us in Christ, how deeply we can love him and with delight serve him.
Hands: Do you often complain about the “burdens” of serving the Lord? Are there neglected opportunities in your life because you think you have done your share? How does that stand up in the light of this part of God’s word?
Prayer: Loving heavenly Father, I thank you for all your mercy and love to me the sinner. Help me to understand the wonder of your grace to me. Guide me as I serve you today so that I might express appropriate gratitude to you in all I do. In Jesus name. Amen
A song to listen to: 10000 Reasons
Living Church – Creek Road