THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS
Luke 17:7-10 But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant, because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all the things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Most parables of our Savior, used to illustrate and teach the New Covenant gospel, were given in response to a specific inquiry by His disciples, that followed and supported Him, or by Jewish leaders, that were opposed to His teaching. The lesson Jesus teaches through the parable of The Unprofitable Servants does not appear to be in answer to a question from the audience assembled around Him at this time. It's message seems to address the erroneous expectations all had about the coming kingdom over which Jesus was to reign. With lessons such as this, Jesus continued to "paint a vivid picture" in the minds of His disciples describing the true kingdom which He would eventually rule from His throne in heaven. Each "stroke of His brush" was a lesson that represented an additional part of the "whole picture" that would soon be unveiled.
Even after the "picture" had been completed; after His ministry on earth was completed; after His death, burial and resurrection, His disciples could not fully "see the picture" and comprehend His kingdom. As Christ appeared to them before His ascension into heaven, they asked, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6). Jesus replied that only God held the power to know the times and seasons the kingdom would be put in place, but very soon you will also know because ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you. Not only would they know of the true kingdom, but also they would preach it to the uttermost part of the earth, beginning in Jerusalem (See Vss. 7-8). In Acts 2:4, Luke told us that they were filled with the Holy Ghost, and began proclaiming the true kingdom over which Christ was to rule from His throne in heaven. The "picture" was then plain for them to see.
The "stroke" Jesus added to the "picture" in this parable was that the citizens of His kingdom would, not only be servants, but unprofitable servants. To all, including His apostles and disciples that were looking forward to the Messiah establishing and ruling over a physical kingdom on earth, this was beyond comprehension. They expected a kingdom that would give them immediate rewards. Instead, this parable tells them that this was not to be. Citizens of His kingdom were compared to servants of the Master, and not guests that would sit with Him at lavishly furnished feasts. They were expected to serve their Master instead of being served by Him. The parable says that after toiling all day plowing fields, and feeding cattle, they are still servants that are expected to come in, prepare the evening meal, and serve it to their master, before they were to have their own meal and retire for the evening. Why? Because that is what servants are hired to do - it is what that is expected of them. And even after this was done, they were still unprofitable servants. In other words, they were not to expect any special privileges, rewards, or even thanks from their master, because they had done only that which they were required to do.
Just as the servants of this parable, Christians, after faithfully serving their Lord and Master here on earth, are still unprofitable servants. No Christian servant can say, at the close of their labor on earth, that he or she used their talents and abilities to the fullest extent and completely filled God's expectations of them. Our efforts, regardless of how successful we are laboring for the cause of Christ, will still be filled with imperfections - we still could have done better. As Paul told the Christian servants in Rome, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). If Christians met, or exceeded the expectations of Jesus, they would be profitable and God would "owe" them salvation. Diligently study the relationship between grace and works. Yes, works are necessary for salvation, but, when completed, they still fall much short of His glory. It is by God's grace that we will enter heaven. It is without merit; it is never earned. Our Father in heaven, help us to see and understand each "stroke" Jesus made as He painted this wonderful "picture" of His kingdom! Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5)!