Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

Unprofitable Servants

Jesus taught an important attitude about our service for Him  in Luke 17:7-10.  In this passage He likens it to a typical slave/master relationship in Bible times.  Today we could apply it to the employer/employee relationship.  Ultimately, these truths apply to our relationship with Christ as His bondservants.




Is a  slave to care for his own needs first, or is his responsibility to care for his master’s needs first? Obviously  the correct answer is that the slave is to primarily  fulfill his responsibilities to his master.


When he fulfills those responsibilities, does the master thank him each time?  Probably not. His loyalty and effort are expected of him   as a slave.


Then in verse 10 Jesus makes an important observation for all of us who have surrendered to our Master, Jesus.  “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded; you, say, (think and take this attitude) We are unprofitable servants. We have done that which was our duty to do.”






Because we abhor the evils of slavery today, we have trouble with passages like this.  The Greek word doulos used here is the word for slave, but translations have translated it servant to be less offensive; but the word is slave.


Slavery has been a fact of life throughout human history.  It was a fact in Old Testament times.  God’s Word gave Israel laws concerning the care and well being of slaves.   Slavery was also in vogue in the time of the Roman Empire when the New Testament was written.   


The Apostle Paul wrote his Epistle to Philemon, a  Christian slave owner, concerning his run away slave, Onesimus.  Paul had found Onesimus and led him to the Lord and instructed him to return to his master. The letter to Philemon was Paul’s plea to this Christian slave master to accept Onesimus, not just as a slave, but as a beloved brother  in Christ.


Paul also wrote in I Corinthians 12:13 of the oneness of all Christians in the Body of Christ,  whether we be Jews or Gentiles and whether we be bond or free.


We’re all familiar with slavery in America from Colonial days until the end of the Civil War, just one hundred and fifty years ago and most of us are aware of the fact that slavery continues in parts of the world, even today.


In Bible times people became slaves by being born to slaves, by being purchased on the auction block, by failure to pay a debt, and as prisoners of war.  In Colonial days, one who had no money to come to America could come as an “indentured servant”.  That is, a wealthy man would pay for his passage to America and hire him  as his slave or servant until he worked off his debt.


Though slaves through history have been treated with cruelty as sub-human, the Bible teaches that they are to be treated with kindness and respect. In America many slaves were mistreated as animals or worse.  At the same time,  many slaves in Christian families were treated lovingly and kindly and were considered as part of the family, as grandparents or uncles and aunts. 


When the Civil War was over and the slaves were set free, some slaves were so happy and satisfied in their relationship with their masters, that they continued to work for them the rest of their lives.


In Exodus 21, we learn of slaves who had served their time and were free to leave their masters, but chose to remain with them.  In that chapter we have a description of a ceremony whereby a slave could remain with his master for life. It involved going to a door post and having an awl driven through his ear lobe and, no doubt, a ring placed in the ear as a sign of his desire to be faithful to his master for the rest of his life. In the ceremony he would declare “I love my Master.  I Will not go out free.”  Thus he would become his master’s slave for the rest of his life.




The slave in this story Jesus told was probably his master’s only slave and so took care of all his master’s needs in the field as well as in the home.  He, no doubt, worked all day in the fields until he was weary.  When he came home in the late afternoon, he did not take care of his own needs first, but prepared supper for his master.  Afterwards he prepared his own supper.  The question this story brings to our attention is whether we as Christ’s servants are in this world to be served or to be of service to others.




Most people, including most Christians,  have a problem with humble servanthood.  When we are asked by others  to perform a task,  we fire back angrily,  “I’m not your slave!!!”


We, who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, have the responsibility and high honor of presenting our bodies as Christ’s bond-servants, to serve Christ by serving  others for the rest of our lives.  I challenge you to read Romans 12:1-3  and II Corinthians 5:14-21 and then make that commitment as Christ’s servant for the rest of your life.  No matter what you do with your life, that  surrender to Christ must be foundational.  Whatever you do with  your life must be  related to Christ’s Great Commission to all Christians to preach the Gospel to the world and make disciples for Christ.  




We have the responsibility of discovering our gifts, as they are listed in  Romans 12,  I Corinthians 12  and Ephesians 4:7-16.  Remember, these gifts are not given to make us feel important, proud and pious. They are given to help us fulfill the task of leading people to Christ , edifying Christians and bringing Christ’s Church to maturity. If you as a Christian are not involved,  you are AWOL. 





By the grace of God, every member of the church is gifted by the Holy Spirit and we are all necessary to the furtherance of the work, just as every member of our body is necessary.    You need your big toe.  You need an ear.  Better yet, you need both ears.  You need your eyes, even your eye lashes.  You need your internal organs, such as your spleen or your thyroid gland.  But the point Jesus is making,  is that even though we are each necessary to accomplish the work of the Body of Christ,  we must not think too highly of ourselves. 






Eliphaz, a friend of Job’s  in Job 22:2 asked that question. “Can a man be profitable unto God?  Jesus answers that question here in Luke 17:10  We are all to recognize ourselves as unprofitable to God.

That’s difficult for some of us preachers, especially.  We get to thinking too highly of ourselves, of our accomplishments, our  scholarship and our people skills; as we listen to the praise and compliments of others.


We are often like the little three year old girl who asked her  Mommy if she could help her wash and dry the dishes.  Her mother wisely gave her permission to help.  In the process of drying them she dropped and broke a cup.  Though unprofitable to her Mother, her Mother appreciated her daughter’s love and desire to be a help and do her best.   That’s how God see us.  Yes, we are unprofitable to Him.  The angels could probably do the work more skillfully. But God, in His love, chooses to allow us to work in partnership with Him. What love!


Let us continue to offer Him our best, but at the same time, let us keep a humble attitude.  Let us never lose sight of the fact that even at our best, we are still unprofitable servants to God.







In John 4:34-38 Jesus reminds us that over-ripe fields are already to harvest.  He is  searching for laborers  from each new  generation to continue the works of former generations.  Listen to His Word.



II Chronicles 16:9   “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.”


In Ezekiel’s day God told Ezekiel to say the words recorded in Ezekiel 22:23-31.  Listen to what God said in that day.


Ezekiel 22:30  “I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge and stand in the gap before Me for the land, that I should not destroy it, BUT I FOUND NONE.”  As millions around us move steadily towards the cliff of death and eternal destruction, are you willing to be one of the few who will stand in the gap for God to warn people of the destruction ahead and give them the Gospel of salvation from the coming judgment?


I am reminded of my high school days in Los Angeles back in the early ’50’s.  One day I visited The Church of the Open Door in that city.  Dr. Vernon McGee was the pastor then.  I attended a great missions conference.   I don’t remember who spoke.  I don’t remember any of the music.  All I remember was a constantly moving scene on the platform of masses of people from both sides of the platform dropping into the pit of hell in the center of the platform.  This moving scene continued throughout the entire service and left a lasting impact on my heart.


It strengthened my  resolve to be one of those men who would stand in the gap for Christ and warn the lost to flee to Christ from the coming judgment on this world.


Thank God, that in every age, He finds faithful men to speak for Him and do His will.




When Isaiah got a vision of God and His holiness and of his own sinfulness and the sinfulness of those around Him, He cried to God for salvation and cleansing and God cleansed Him.  Then He heard the voice of God calling for faithful men to serve Him and He gladly responded, “Here am I, send me!”   Isaiah 6:1-8.


Note, that God did not hand pick Isaiah and call Him to serve Him. If you’re waiting for God to call you, you will probably never serve Him. What Isaiah heard was a general call for someone to serve Him.  Isaiah simply volunteered to serve and God directed him and used him.




The same was true of Saul of Tarsus. Saul, a Pharisee and the chief persecutor of Christians,  was traveling towards Damascus to find and arrest more Christians. As he traveled, he was confronted and struck down and physically blinded by the glorified Christ. Immediately he recognized Christ as His Saviour and rightful Lord and cried out, “Lord, what will you have me to do?”  Acts 9:3-6


In Acts 9:1-22 we have recorded how God found Ananias, a Christian in Damascus who knew Saul, the persecutor of Christians. God used this courageous man, Ananias, to introduce this new convert to the Church he had been persecuting.  


Ananias could say, “Behold, I am here, Lord (ready for further instructions)  In Acts 22:10-16 Paul refers to Ananias in his testimony  What amazing spiritual insight this unknown man was given as he  testified of  how God was going to change and use Saul the persecutor of Christians to Paul, the blesser of  Christians  through the inspired Epistles he would write.


It just goes to show how God uses famous men such as Paul and little known men, such as Ananias.   Who would know anything of Paul if it hadn’t been for courageous Ananias who introduced him to the Church?


I’m not ruling out God’s sovereignty in calling and using Isaiah and Paul and His servants today. Certainly, God in His sovereignty choose men and women to serve Him.  But what I am saying is that we should not sit idle all our lives waiting for a voice from Heaven to give us a supernatural call.


Today, as in Bible times, God calls all of us who are Christians to be His ambassadors to this sinful world in which we live.  Read the challenges to every Christian found in II Corinthians 5:19-21 Christian friend,  you are an Ambassador of Christ.  Are you faithful to this calling or are you sneaking through life, trying to be as inconspicuous as you can,  withholding the Gospel from the lost around you who are headed for eternity in Hell?


Jesus urges us to pray the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest fields.  Luke 10:2





Consider the attitudes and responsibilities of Christ’s servants.  We live in a culture where some work two jobs and long hours to meet needs. Our boss often expects long hours of overtime to meet goals and needs.  Though he pays us our overtime wages,  he does not always thank us or show his appreciation.  We expect gratitude, but do not always get it.  That’s tough, but that’s life.  Quit whining how overworked you are. I’m speaking primarily to those of us  in full time Christian ministry.


Too many of us have been pampered and  grown soft and lazy, excusing ourselves from hard labor and long hours serving the Lord. Let us not  presume upon God, expecting to be thanked and rewarded in this life.  Continue to give Him your best and leave the full reward to the day when we stand before God and give an account of our lives and our ministries.   Remember, if you are not thanked and rewarded in this life, it doesn’t matter.


Faithfulness is essential.  I Corinthians 4:2 says “It is required, it is essential that a steward be faithful.”  If we can’t be faithful in little things, we will not be trusted for the big responsibilities.


Loyalty to Christ and to His cause is essential.  Demas, a companion of Paul,  turned out to be one of those disloyal friends.  He was pulled away from the ministry by the tug of the world system.


We must keep a good attitude.  We are not to be gripers and complainers. Instead we should be willing to offer constructive suggestions and if we are leaders, we should be willing to receive and consider constructive suggestions with openness and humility.


As the slave in Luke 17, we should be willing to go the second mile. After working all day in the field and being bone tired,  when he got home that evening, he was willing to prepare a meal for his master before he prepared his own meal.   It was required of him and so he did it without complaint.



He was humble and teachable; not a know-it-all.


In our youth we must take the time and effort to prepare ourselves. Proverbs 18:16 reminds us that “A man’s gifts make room for him and  brings him before great men.”   The more prepared and surrendered the Christian is, the greater doors of opportunity will be open to him.





In this story in Luke 17:7-10 Jesus is teaching us what our attitude should be as His servant.   It is false humility that says, “I am nothing and can do nothing”  when we know we are gifted in certain areas and are good at what we do.   But at the same time, we are to avoid excessive pride in our abilities and think that we are indispensible. Proverbs 25:14 warns us that those who boast of false gifts, that is, those who boast of gifts that they really don’t have, are like the dark clouds and wind that appear to be bringing rain, but never does.


Take an honest, sober evaluation of your gifts and abilities; but at the same time guard against pride and self-importance. Understand that you will not always be thanked and appreciated for speaking the truth, even when it is spoken in love.  So don’t expect it and don’t be discouraged when you do not receive it.  Remember, you and I are to recognize that even though we give our best, we are still to understand that in many ways we are unprofitable.


 Paul warns us in Romans 12:3  “not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God has dealt to every man the measure of faith.”


I Corinthians 4:2 warns us that if we can’t be trusted in the little things, He is not going to entrust us with greater responsibilities. Proverbs 20:6 reminds us that ” most men will proclaim everyone his own goodness; but a faithful man who can find?”


Learn to live by the motto of John the Baptist in John 3:30 “He (God) must increase in my life; I must decrease.”





As you seek for the best training possible, God promises His faithful servants that He will provide for every need.  Paul in I Thessalonians 5:24 reminds us “Faithful is He that calls you who also will do it.” God doesn’t just provide the finances for our preparation, He continues to provide His strength and wisdom, as well as our material needs as long as we serve Him.



Isaiah 45:2-3 assures us that He will cut through all the impossibilities that we face through life and He has treasures for us hidden in the dark and difficult times of life.


Finally, in Matthew 11:28-30 Christ invites us in our weariness as we serve Him  to come to Him  for rest. He invites us to take the yoke that is on his neck and allow Him to place it on our neck.  He wants to help us pull the load. He carries the heavy part of the load and only allows us to pull that which will strengthen us.  As we are yoked with Christ, remember, He leads the way.  Walk always seeking His will and the yoke will not rub your neck and make it sore.   His yoke is easy to the yielded neck and His burden is light as we stay yoked with Him.       


May 15, 2006 - Posted by | Service Series

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