Unprofitable Servants

When a boss comes to an employee and complains about their performance, often the employee defends themself with the words, “I’ve done everything you told me to do!”

When it comes to Christians serving God, often we look at what we do and think God will be satisfied because we check all the “to do” boxes. Let me see; I go to church – check. I pray – check. I read the Bible – check. I tell people about Jesus – well, it’s been a while, but I have done it – check. We go through a few more things on the list and continue checking boxes proclaiming victory. After this self-examination, we think, “I’ve done everything God has told me to do.”

Is checking off the boxes good enough to live a satisfying, victorious Christian life. Before we go on, let me clarify something. Salvation does not come from the work we do. We are not granted eternal life because of the “to do” boxes we can check off. Salvation is only through faith (Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-9).

So then, does God consider us profitable servants if we do our duty? Luke 17:10 gives us the answer. The words of Jesus Christ, “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

It appears that God wants more than the to-do list checked off? What could it be? Is God being unreasonable? He tells us to do thus-and-so, and when we have accomplished the tasks, He tells us we are of no profit. This circumstance seems out of character for God.

Herein is an example of why we cannot always grab one verse and run with it. The paragraph starts with verse 5. The paragraph begins with, “And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.” The passage is about faith. Verse six is the famous verse about the mustard seed, “And the Lord said, If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.”

The paragraph then concludes with the parable about the servant obeying all his lord’s commands yet is found unprofitable.

We can now conclude that the servant is unprofitable not because he left chores undone but because he did not perform his duties with faith.

So how does this work within the Christian life? Let us look at a few things on our to-do list and see how faith enhances everything.

God commands us to go to church (Hebrews 10:25). Many Christians attend church religiously (pun intended). Sometimes we drag ourselves there. Let us admit it, sometimes, getting to church is an extreme effort. We get there; we have done our duty. We sing because that is what we do. During the sermon, the mind wonders about what we are having for dinner or that afternoon’s ball games, or whatever else may be going on elsewhere.

Now let us bring faith into the picture. Before we ever leave the house, we pray – in faith. God’s Word does not come back void (Isiah 55:11). We trust in God’s Word that it will do something to our hearts. He may convict us of sin, He may give us comfort, it may be something else, but we know God will bless us through His Word. Having the faith that God will reach you during the sermon will keep those thoughts of “what’s for dinner” away and your attention on the sermon because you are expecting a blessing. Faith brings a whole new dynamic to your attendance.

If God has called you to teach a children’s class, there are days when your thoughts are, “All I got to do is get through this hour.” Teaching kids is challenging. Everything changes if we go at this with faith instead of an “I gotta get through this” attitude. Again, God’s Word will not come back void. If we approach with faith, we are now teachers and mentors instead of glorified babysitters. The addition of faith brings our duty of teaching from enduring the children to where we are helping God mold those little hearts. Faith in God makes all the difference in the kids and us.

Another thing on our to-do list for God is reading the Bible. Again, if we have faith that God will teach us something, we will learn something. If we are only doing our duty to read every day, our eyes skip from one word to another, and nothing else happens.

I am sure you are getting the picture by now.

One last thought. Hebrews 11:6 tells us that it is impossible to please God without faith. So doing our duty without faith is unpleasing to God; we are unprofitable servants. Whatever you do for God, do it with faith. You will receive a blessing, and your service will bless God.

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As people continue to seek solid answers in these uncertain times, the editors of the Baltimore Post-Examiner are inviting an array of spiritual teachers to share insights from the ages along with words of comfort and hope. These timely messages are not exclusive to any particular faith walk and will be included in our ongoing Spirituality series.