The Parable of the Servant’s Duty, found in Luke 17:7-10 reads:
And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’”
I once noted that Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are identical. God only repeats Himself when He is trying to point something important out to us. I will quote just the first three verses of these Psalms from the Old Testament:
“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works. There is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, No, not one.” The Apostle Paul referred to the above passage in the New Testament, Romans 3:10-12: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable.”
In our parable, Jesus also uses the word “unprofitable.”
I have to say that out of all the parables, I personally struggle with this one. Perhaps it is rooted in a human’s low self esteem. It is quite understandable to have low self esteem when we first become a Christian because over time you will learn to see yourself as God sees you: covered over with the righteousness of Christ. But I still struggle with low self-esteem at times because there are still remnants of hurt and pain in my life. I would like to be free to share that.
When I was near the end of my twenty year addiction, I was taught what true repentance was and saw the difference between being truly repentant and just being mournful or sorry for my sin. I had that described to me in a one-hour sermon, and someone took me aside afterwards and counseled me for half an hour about true repentance.
He said to me, “Matthew, until you are sorry for raping the girls that you are sleeping with—until you are sorry for being someone like their father, taking and abusing these ladies (even though you are paying them)—you are abusing them for having sex with someone who is not your wife. Until you are desperately sorry for what you are doing to them and for abusing your own flesh; until you are sorry for wasting your own money and trying to find love in the wrong places; until you are sorry for abusing God; until you have given some deep and personal thought about your abusive addiction; and until you are truly mournful and sorry in those areas, you will never find repentance. Until you stop doing these things you are not repentant.”
I thought about that. It only took a week to agree with what I had been told. Then one Sunday at church, where we could call out prayers in the middle of the worship service, I was going to repent of my sins publicly. Then I heard Jesus say: “When you do it, I want you to admit, that all ‘your righteousness’ is like filthy rags.”
But you see I also had a big problem with saying that my good deeds were filthy rags. I felt that I was essentially a good person. Whilst I could never say that I hated that Scripture in the Bible, I wanted to believe that the Scripture was wrong. I had a problem with Jeremiah 17:9 too, saying that, “The heart of man is desperately wicked. Who can know it?” I inwardly struggled for some time, but finally, I accepted its truth. Yes, I was convinced that even my good deeds are filthy rags in God’s sight. So, when I prayed my prayer, I really meant it. I said out loud, “My righteousness is filthy rags.” Immediately God set me free from that addiction. The spirit of lust left me.
On Tuesday, when I was paid and I was tempted, the temptation was not the usual one hundred percent strong, but was something I could handle: it was only ten percent as strong and I could resist it.
The reason I am sharing this illustration is that I personally had an issue with going to Jesus, sitting down with Him and saying, “I am an unprofitable servant. I only did what was my duty to do.” It was a pride issue with me! I felt that I was doing a good job for Jesus and I was well pleasing in His sight. He has shown that He really loves me and told me He does, but essentially, when it really comes down to it, without Jesus I would be going to Hell.
Without His cross and His salvation, I would be lost eternally. As His follower, I am really His servant. John 15:14 says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” And although I am His friend, I am also His servant. With all the money in the world, even if I recorded some fantastic albums and wrote bestselling books and made millions of dollars for the Kingdom of God, it could never repay Jesus for taking the rap for my sin. I could never repay Him if I lived a thousand years or more!
So, when I look at it that way, I know that I truly am an unprofitable servant. Although the Bible says that Christians are part of the worldwide “Bride” of Christ; are priests of God; are peculiar people to the world; and a brand new creation; I also have the DNA of Jesus Christ. It was not beneath Jesus Christ to come and serve lost humanity. It is not beneath Jesus Christ to serve us and intercede for us now in Heaven. So, it should not be beneath me to say that I am an unprofitable servant, and all the good things that I do, are only what He has commanded me to do.
We say we have a low self-esteem but really we have the opposite problem. If you too have a problem with this, one way to deal with it is just to consider what a higher price Jesus paid for us. Without Him, we would not even have life. We would not really have peace. We would not have an eternal home in Heaven already prepared and waiting for us. If you consider the great price that Jesus paid and how there is nothing we could do to earn our salvation, like me, you will come to a point where you will be able to accept that yes, we in ourselves are unprofitable. “Jesus, without Your death on the cross, we are still unprofitable.”
I originally recorded this on video and didn’t have it typed up. I disagreed with this parable of Jesus. I thought it was not relevant anymore, but God has convicted me, because everything Jesus said is relevant. I couldn’t do a parable series and say one of the parables is not relevant today and successfully pull it off—and have people believe it. It would be like a rotten apple in a bunch of fresh ones.
The fact that the parable uses the word “unprofitable” is the reason why it strikes so close to the bone in my life. It forces me to confess that there is nothing good in me. There is good in me only because of Christ. I can do wonderful things with Christ’s help like writing this book in the power of the Holy Spirit: without His intervention this book would be un-salty rubbish! The friendship of Jesus has taught me, that left to my own devices, I would be totally helpless. I am a lost cause without God.
There will be many readers who will disagree with what I have said. But both the Old Testament and the New Testament agree on the truth that without the intervention of God in our life, all humanity is stained with sin. If this were not so, the Father would not have had to send His Son to die on a brutal cross to redeem us from Satan. To argue otherwise is to argue with the Creator! The Bible says: “Let God be true but every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4) Pride is so entrenched in our soul, that it seems inconceivable that there is nothing good in us without God.
It always comes back to the same issue: we compare our goodness with other people and forget that God is the only One who is good. We were born with a sin bias: that is why it will take us a lifetime to come into line with God’s ways. I guess some people just struggle with it more than others.
Before the Gospel is liberating, it is offensive! If you are finding it offensive it means the Holy Spirit is working in you. Until we come to the knowledge that even our very best works are filthy compared to the holiness of God, then we are not open to be saved from sin Take heart dear reader, Jesus said “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”(Matthew 9:13)
If this message has offended you, know that I know how you feel. I pray that God’s truth will be revealed to you personally. Then, like me, you can rejoice that you are a sinner because sinners are the only people who will go to Heaven. If you remain self-righteous, there is no other provision God has for you!