The unprofitable servant

Understanding Luke 17:5-10 is crucial to our knowledge of salvation. What it says about grace is both challenging and liberating.

From a modern, fleshly standpoint, the master’s behavior is repugnant. We naturally bristle at subservience and allowing others to make demands of us. It brings to mind images of films or novels where the lazy wealthy treat their staff like animals.

Class warfare aside, we have a master and a servant. Clearly, the master needs help and only has one servant for inside and outside. The master could be busy working or disabled, we don’t know. Removing the unknown, we have a stripped down story with a powerful punch.

The servant works outside and when he enters the house, he has to prepare his master’s dinner before he can take care of his own needs. Restraining our emotions, we realize that this is simply the job of the servant that he does every day regardless of circumstances.

“Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not” (Luke 17:9, NKJV).

Remaining solely within the text, the servant fulfills his expected duty. He has done the minimum. Should he receive a medal of honor?

Jesus then applies the lesson to the apostles and subsequently to us today. Christians, when we have done our duty, we are still unprofitable or useless servants.

God’s grace allows us to come to him for salvation (Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:16). We submit to Christ and have our sins washed away (Acts 22:16) and we follow him obediently the remainder of our days (John 14:15; 1 John 1:7).

In the end, though, we will still need grace to enter heaven (Ephesians 2:8-9). No level of obedience will ever put God in our debt or force him to save us. In the end, we will still be unprofitable servants.

Develop a spiritual perspective and all becomes clearer. Our faith is increased when we realize our place in God’s kingdom. He is Lord and we are servants bound to do his will.

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