“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'” (Luke 17:7-10)
“And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. (Luke 12:47-48)
Last month’s column was about Luke, the compassionate physician who wrote both a Gospel and the Book of Acts, including the birth story of Jesus and the grace-filled parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 2:1-20, 15:11-32) We hear those sweet scriptures all the time.
Today we address two other teachings in the Gospel of Luke that do not receive similar attention. To the contrary, they are rarely if ever taught.
In our Luke 17 passage, Jesus challenges His disciples on the issue of a servant’s duty to their master. The Greek word translated “servant” is doulos, which means “slave” or “bondservant” – a person who is totally subservient to and dependent upon their master, without wages. This relationship, common in those days, is not at all like the “quid pro quo” of our modern employer-employee relationships, where your work earns you the right to compensation and benefits.
Jesus reminded His disciples that bondservants do not earn special treatment or even a “thank you” for simply doing their duty. Obedience of the master’s commands is both required and expected.
Luke’s inclusion of this teaching is a sharp reminder that the Lord is our Lord, as well as our Creator and Savior. We have not and cannot earn His wonderful blessings of salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has always been all-sovereign, all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful, and He is entitled to our total trust and obedience without further “quid pro quo”.
Our Luke 12 passage expands upon the Luke 17 teaching, adding a sharp concept of accountability to the lesson on responsibility.
Jesus had just explained why His disciples need to focus on seeking His Kingdom, which effectively means “Your will be done in my life and on earth as it is in heaven”. (vs. 16-31; Matthew 6:10) He then turns to the requirement that they stay focused on His Kingdom, “dressed for action”, “lamps burning”, and “awake”, because they do not know when He will return for them. The “ready” servants are the ones He will bless at His return. (vs. 35-40).
In response to a question from Peter, Jesus then explains that while all are bondservants of the Lord, some servants are also household managers (oikonomos in Greek) who provide leadership to the other servants. (v. 42). Reminiscent of when Jesus would later tell Peter to “feed My sheep”, these managers are to ensure the household is fed. (John 21:17)
Those managers who stay focused on their responsibilities will, like the other “ready” servants, be blessed. (vs. 43-44) But woe to those managers who instead focus on their own pleasures or mistreat those they were to feed. (vs. 45-46) All servants who did not stay Kingdom-focused will receive a beating when the master returns, but the severe beating will be for those who knew more and were entrusted with more. (vs. 47-48)
Christians are saved by grace through faith and not by works, but we are created in Christ for good works as His servants. (Ephesians 2:8-10) As beloved children of God, we are also servants in the family business: the royal priesthood and household of prayer.
Our faithful service does not earn us treasures in heaven, seats at the heavenly banquet, or other blessings any more than we can earn God’s forgiveness and everlasting life. Those blessings are further extensions of God’s lavish grace.
Our unfaithfulness, however, can disqualify us from blessings God wants us to have, and can also subject us to chastening we would like to avoid. (Hebrews 12:5-11)
Each of us faces an accounting with God. (Romans 14:12; Matthew 12:36-37; Ecclesiastes 12:14) Teachers like me will, like others in equipping ministry, be judged more strictly. (James 3:1) We should always be delighted to share the truth of God’s amazing grace and unconditional love. But we also need to teach the scriptural truths rarely taught about Christian duty and accountability.
People do not want to hear them, but we need to hear them so that later we can hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant”. (Luke 19:17)
God bless you, and God bless our community.