In the Gospel, the Lord tells us that after we have done all that is commanded us, we should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Lk 17:10) Now, on the surface, that can sound like a pretty demanding boss, it can sound like a God from the Apprentice, a Donald Trump taken to the extreme who wants us to settle for misery. Even if you are a demanding business owner looking for help, that line is not going to get you many responses on Monster.com. Can you see the ad? “At end of every work day, employees expected to prepare 4-course dinner for supervisor and say, ‘we are unworthy servants, we have only done what was our duty.'”
But every parable that the Lord tells has some twist to it, something that has to be found before the parable can be understood, something that is the key to unlocking it.
See, the Lord never tells someone to do something that He Himself is not doing. Everything He commands is really an invitation to join Him in doing what He is doing. In the parable story, the servant wasn’t alone in the plowing and the tending of the sheep. The owner was with Him, doing the very same thing.
During the day, the servant got to be with the owner, doing the things he was doing, and he got to know the owner. He saw the owner in the fields, how he worked full-steam with calm and joy, plowing and sowing seed. The servant saw how he dug around the tree that wasn’t bearing fruit and put more fertilizer around it, to try to bring it back to life. He saw how he accepted with resignation when he discovered that weeds grew up in his crop, and how he continued on sowing the next stretch of land even though last year so little of the seed he planted actually took root, how he had all the same confidence as if his seeding had all been completely successful.
When one of the sheep went astray, the servant saw him go after the lost sheep and carry it back on his shoulders. He saw the joy on the owner’s face and heard the whistling and singing as a little celebration was prepared.
When he himself was beat and tired and worn out (at only 10am), the owner came to him with cold water for relief. When he had trouble carrying supplies because of sore feet and blisters, the owner shared the load, taking all the heaviness of the load on himself without a complaint. He saw how the owner smiled at him in his mistakes, made up for his weaknesses, and overlooked his failures in the plowing and with the flock. He saw that the owner never fired anyone, never gave up on anyone of the servants in their attitude or mistakes or ineptness. He realized that really, when it was all said and done, the owner had done pretty much all of the worthwhile work in the day.
See, that’s why I think the servant is very, very happy with serving the owner at the end of the day. I don’t think he’s miserable, no settling for second rate, no depressing false humility. No sense of salve labor and working for a boss. I think he’s spent the day working with this remarkable owner, who is an incredibly loving father to him and the other servants, and he is blown away.
He’s spent a day working with his God.
When the Lord gives us a command, it’s not because He wants us to be miserable, depressed servants. He’s not calling us to a sweatshop. No, He wants us to experience how incredible He is, how much He loves us, who He really is. He wants us to be blown away.
He wants us to come, and spend a day working with our God.