(Luke 17:10) “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.”
Jesus Christ here instructs the disciples in a very important point of our Christian service. Notice that He speaks of the servant that has toiled and labored in his master’s field all day long. Rather than coming home to be served or even commended, the servant is assigned more duties. He is, after all, a servant and he is expected to perform certain functions as a necessary part of his servitude. This servant does that which is his duty to perform, not expecting any reward for his mindless toil or his heartless servitude.
There is great significance in this picture, especially when we consider the nature of our own Christian servitude. It is the servant’s duty to perform every commandment of his master without the least expectation of receiving a blessing for fulfilling that command. The master owes the servant nothing – he owns the servant and the servant’s explicit obedience is his purpose in being purchased.
The Bible explains that, as Christians, we too have been bought with a price and that we are not our own; it is our duty to glorify God in our body and spirit (1 Cor. 6:22-23). The presenting of ourselves as a living sacrifice is our reasonable service (Rom. 12:1); which means that it is not an unreasonable thing that we should keep the Lord’s commandment without the expectation of a reward. He owns us, and our obedience to His command is our purpose (Eccl. 12:13).
And to this diligent performance of one’s duty, Jesus tells His very own disciples that we will be considered unprofitable servants – good for nothing – after we “have done all those things which are commanded.” While this may seem to be a harsh statement in regards to faithful servitude, there is an important lesson to be learned. The key to understanding the lesson is to find out what it means to be a profitable servant. If heartless service renders me unprofitable, then the requisite to being profitable is to serve heartily.
We need to see that our very best service is unacceptable (and so unprofitable) to the Lord if our heart is not in it. No amount of commandment-keeping will suffice to gain the favor of the Lord. In fact, seeking His favor by works show that we think we can earn His Grace, and indicates the wrong attitude and motive in our service. The correct view of the relationship between works and grace shows us that Grace is freely given by God, and that works should be freely given by us. Both God’s Grace toward us, and our servitude toward Him, are properly seen as acts of love.
Thus we learn that in order to be a profitable servant, our actions must be done from a heart of love, as unto the Lord – Who tells us; “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). If we are to be profitable servants, our service must be a love offering to Him Who first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19), and not in expectation of a reward.