“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ” Luke 17:10 (NAS)Read Luke 17:7-10
We tend to think only the “above and beyond stuff” is worthy of the response “well done good and faithful servant.” To this point Matthew 25:21 says, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”
In business you get nowhere if you just do the minimum (they call that these days “quiet quitting”). You must grow and prosper the company, and to do so you hire special people to do special things over and beyond. It’s different in God’s work though. The more you know about what He expects the less you actually think you are doing that which is special and commendable.
Case in point. I’ve noticed in interviews with World War II heroes the familiar refrain, “I just did what anyone else would do.” That is to say, they did what was expected.
Perhaps all of our service falls into the category of what is expected. Maybe it’s just a few things we’re asked to do. Perhaps the bar is not set at winning over an entire continent of people for Christ. Maybe God simply wants me just to be a faithful husband and father, period.
Just so you know, our verse describes an “unworthy” slave, meaning worth nothing over and beyond the room and board owed him for discharging his duties, lest we get carried away with the common understanding of translations “useless” and “unprofitable.”
No matter what we’re called to do, after completing the work, we should think and say, “we have only done that which we ought to have done.” All glory to God.
I recall Olympic champion Sydney McLaughlin unapologetically give glory to God after winning the gold medal in the 400 meter hurdles in Tokyo in 2021. To paraphrase her standard response to her many victories and world records, “I put in the work, the rest I just give all the glory to God.”
In a well-oiled church, service opportunities are abundant. But they’re on someone else’s checklist, not yours. It’s easy to feel guilty when you repeatedly say “no” to requests to “serve.” But the real question is whether you are doing your “few things.” Remember the dynamic preacher Apollos? Paul failed in his attempt to recruit him.
But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity. 1 Corinthians 16:12
He was already hard at work at his “few things.”
Perhaps all God wants is someone faithful, sensible, and reliable at work where he or she has been placed by His hand. Certainly He’s put us all in charge of at least a few things!
“Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time?” Matthew 24:45
Jesus Christ while on earth was the greatest servant of all. In his “high priestly prayer” in the garden, as found in John 17, he goes through a list of his “accomplishments,” all apparently his expected duties while on earth (note my emphases below).
4 “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.”
6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.”
8 “The words which You gave Me I have given to them.”
12 “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them.”
22 “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.”
26 “I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known.”
It is interesting that at the start of (Matthew 3:17) and during his ministry (Matthew 17:5) God the father commended Jesus. “This is my son in whom I am well pleased,” even though He had not yet fully discharged these responsibilities (see John 17:26 above). The important thing is he was where he needed to be, doing what he ought to do. So then, it’s our position, not our perspiration that God commends.
Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on this teaching says this,
“As His servants, we must beware lest we have the wrong attitude toward our duties. There are two extremes to avoid: merely doing our duty in a slavish way because we have to, or doing our duty because we hope to gain a reward.”
So stop feeling guilty about not doing what you haven’t been called to do, or put out that you’re not getting your just due (praise and adoration) for what you are doing, and without pretense faithfully, sensibly and reliably do the few God-chosen things you have been called to do, and then, to the rest, to God be the glory.