CHRISTIANS AS UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS
In Luke 17:7-10 Jesus said to His disciples ?Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ?Come along now sit down and eat?? Would he not rather say, ?Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink, after that you may eat and drink?? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also when you have done everything you were told to do, say, ?We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.?? This little parable was spoken to warn His disciples and later Christians, not to question or disobey any of His teachings. He had just taught them that it was better then and is now that one suffer physical death than to cause any of God?s children to stumble, sin and cease to follow Christ. When disciples offend and sin against one another, He gave then this precise way of restoring peace and harmony: If your brother sins against you rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you saying, ?I repent,? you shall forgive him.?? However, the apostles immediately spoke up and said, ?Lord, increase our faith.? The apostles felt they could not carry out that command. They doubted that such a forgiving spirit was in them. Faith is the same as belief. What they said was, ?Increase our belief.? They wanted to believe in Christ in a way not then open to them. They felt that was demanding a little more than was necessary. However, they did not fully know Him yet and had not come to the faith that He was God in the flesh. Jesus spoke this little parable to show to all disciples and Christians their true relationship to Him. They needed more faith in Him, and that is the need of all of us. He actually increased their faith by telling them the parable of the unprofitable servant
I doubt that very many sermons have ever been preached on Luke 17:7-10. Have you ever heard a sermon on the parable of the unprofitable servant? Read carefully as I present it correctly interpreted, ?Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ?Come here at once and take your place at the table.?? Would you not rather say to him, ?Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink, and later you may eat and drink?? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? I think not. So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ?We are unprofitable slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!.?? This parable is not difficult to understand.. There are just two men in the story. a slave and his Master. All parables of Jesus were earthly stories with a spiritual meaning, and most of them had reference to the duties and responsibilities that Christians owe to Christ. The man in story was a common slave. That?s evident from the fact that after a hard day?s plowing in the field and tending to sheep, he wasn?t allowed to eat supper until he had prepared dinner and served it to his Master. Then he could eat his meal. That was common etiquette in that day and time; nd slaves did not eat with the Master and his family. Moreover, this man did not consider this ill treatment; it was one the common duties of slaves. Some of the disciples who heard Jesus must have had slaves, for He said, ?Would you invite your bond servant to sit down and eat with you at the table?. No, you would tell him to serve dinner to you to the Master first; then he could serve himself.? The other man in the story was the Master who owned the slave. He did not mistreat this man; it was just the way of life under slavery. The most disturbing thing about this parable is the comment Jesus made about this man for doing only what he was supposed to do. Jesus said the Master did not thank him for doing that which was his duty to do, and then added the man was still an unprofitable servant. That sounded a little harsh, and does not sound like something that Jesus would say. Some of you might be asking if Jesus approved of people being treated like that? Is that one of the Lord?s teachings? It just does not sound like Jesus at all. Well, it?s there, and because it is there Jesus must be teaching us an important truth, regardless of how offensive it is to modern ears
Admittedly, this parable sounds offensive, and we are offended by the word slave, but we must keep in mind that Jesus was speaking at a particular time in history, within the particular cultural context of slavery as practiced two thousand years ago. Our ancestors owned slaves and many were slaves less than soem 150 years ago. Even without slavery today there is still some carry over of it today. People of wealth still regard those who work in their household to be unworthy to eat at the family table, but they must eat in the kitchen while serving them in fine dining room. Human progress has been very slow. Jesus wants us to be offended by such language to day, but no one was offended by such language in the time of Jesus. We are offended by the idea of slavery, as well we should be. Nevertheless, Jesus used slavery in this parable to teach the church some very important truths.. What did Jesus mean by this story? The parable of the unprofitable servant is a special message from Christ to all Christians.
The first message is that Christians must have aloving, forgiving attitude toward other Christians. Under no condition are we to be responsible for being a stumblingblock to another Christian, resulting in his ceasing to follow Jesus or leave the church. He assures us that Christians will fall out with one another, mistreat one another, but woe be to that disciple who causes a weak disciple to fall away from the faith. Jesus used figurative language to illustrate the guilt of a disciple who caused another to lose faith in Christ. Jesus said it would be better for the offender if a heavy weight were tied around his neck and thrown into the sea. It was better then and is now that one suffer physical death rather than to cause any of God?s children to be discouraged and stumble, even the least one of them. We are all in this danger of causing others among us to stumble. The only way to avoid this fearful conduct is to have a loving forgiving attitude. The Lord said that if a Christian offends you, rebuke him and if he repents forgive him. If he should sin against you seven times in one day and returns each time and says, I repent, you shall forgive him. Forgive someone seven times in one day? Now that?s a hard saying; it is hard to believe and harder to do. The apostles were so shocked they said, ?Increase our faith, Lord.?. The apostles did not think they could do that. They needed more faith in Christ; more faith in His authority to demand that kind of obedience. However, they didn?t fully know who Jesus was at this time. They didn?t know He was God in the flesh. They thought he was to be another King David and set up his throne in Jerusalem. It was the suggestion of the apostles that He gave them a command that was too hard to obey that produced this parable. The first message that comes from this story is beware of an unforgiving and unmerciful attitude; it may stand against us at the judgment.
The second message that comes from Christ is is that there is a similarity between a bond servant of olden time and a Christian. The master in this story represents Jesus Christ, and the man in this story represents all Christians. The word translated servant inmost versions in the story is the Greek word for a slave. The translators used the word servant instead of slave to soften the harshness of this story. There is a difference between a servant a slave. A slave was a debtor or bought person who works without pay. A servant was a person employed to perform services, especially household duties. This man was not an ordinary servant who worked for pay. The Bible speaks of bondmen and bondwomen. A bondman was a slave who worked without pay. A bondwoman was a female slave often called a maid servant. The message of Christ is that there is a similarity between a bondservant in ancient slavery and a Christian servant because Jesus is the greatest and highest authority in the universe. The evidence for this truth is clearly taught in scripture. It is very clear that the apostles and earthly brothers of Jesus never forgot this parable and its meaning. Peter began the letter of II Peter with the words, ?Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ.? Jude, earthly brother of Jesus, begins his letter like this, ?Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ.? James, earthly brother of Jesus, begins his letter with the words, ?James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.? Paul begins the Roman letter by saying, ?Paul, a bndservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle..? A bondservant was a slave, not an ordinary servant. These men were not ashamed of this term, nor were they offended by it. If these inspired writers are bondservants, it is necessarily implied that all Christians are bondservants. The apostles needed more faith in Christ to obey a command they thought to be near impossible. When we think Christ give us commands that are to hard to obey, let us remember what these apostles said and pray for more faith in Christ and His authority. Jesus increased their faith by teaching them the absolute authority He has over all His disciples. That is the chief message in the parable of the unprofitable servant. If there remains any doubt that Christians are compared to bondservants, Paul removes all doubt in I Corinthians 6:19,20: ?Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit which are God?s.? Christians are here compared to a bondservant bought off the block by a man who becomes his new owner. Christ bought us out of a state of enslavement to evil habits, a state of ungodliness, out of a state of sinful living, and out of a state of hopelessness. What price did He pay? The Bible says that God purchased the church with the blood of Christ(Acts 20:28). The second message of Christ to the church is that Christians are bondservants to the King of Kiings and the Lord of Lords.
Still another message that comes from Christ in this story is that Christians should not think more highly of themseles than they ought think. The Master said to the bondservant at the end of the work day,?You prepare dinner and serve me first, and afterward you fan eat and drink?. He did not thank his servant for obeying him. Then Jesus applied the whole story to Christians by saying, ?So likewise you, when you have done all the things which you are commanded, say, `We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.