“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty.'” (Luke 17:10)
What’s Jesus doing with those words addressed to the apostles? Won’t such words discourage faithful service to him and his people? Far from it! He’s guarding what we prayed about in the prayer of the day: “Make us ready, with cheerful hearts, to do whatever pleases you.”
The greatest enemy of joyful service in life and ministry is a proud heart. It’s a heart that vainly tries to impress God (and others) with what faithful servants we truly are as we strive to offer “above and beyond” service. Indulge such thinking, and a joyful heart quickly becomes a troubled, irritated and even angry heart when people don’t seem to notice what devoted servants we are and honor us accordingly.
Jesus pierces through such proud thinking by letting us know that even on our best days, even if we could truly say we’d done “everything” (really?) asked of us, we remain “unworthy servants” who “have only done our duty.”
With those words Jesus hopes to pop our pride long enough to remind us what a privilege it is to be servants of a gracious God! We’ve been freed from the futility of trying to prove ourselves faithful to our Master. He’s already declared us faithful by his grace.
We belong to a Master who’s done far more than what any earthly master would ever do. Before preparing an awesome meal for us, our Master clothed himself in our servants’ garb to work in our place in the field. Then, after 33 years of service above and beyond duty, he allows himself to suffer the shame of unworthy servants who couldn’t do theirs! And as if that wasn’t enough, as we come in from our fields of labor, he invites us as host to a meal where weary and burdened servants find rest for their souls! There our Master even gives us a glimpse of the eternal banquet he’s preparing for those taught to love him.
You want a joyful heart in service? Take your eyes off your own faithfulness scorecard or any claim to have approached or exceeded “our duty.” Fix your eyes on the Master who for you went above and beyond. There you find renewed strength to serve with joy.