The Parable of the Servant

Mike Johnson

The Parable of the Servant is found in 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 those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

This story itself is very simple.  The servant (slave – NASB) under consideration could not come in from the field and immediately sit down and eat.  His duties were not completed by simply doing the day’s plowing and cattle feeding.  After the slave came in from the field, he had to first prepare something for his master and then serve the master until he finished eating and drinking.  Not until this was done, could the slave eat and drink.

Patience

One important lesson to learn from this parable is that Christians must persist in a life of faithfulness to God.  They must patiently continue to serve God and must not falter. Thayer (Greek-English Lexicon of the N.T., page 644) defines the word translated “patience” to mean, “Steadfastness, constancy, endurance  . . . in the N.T. the characteristic of a man who is unswerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings . . . .”

The servant in the parable could not be pleasing to his master until he finished his work.  Similarly, the Christian cannot be pleasing to God if he ceases to serve God.  Many today receive the Word but only endure for a time.  When faced with tribulation or persecution, unfaithfulness to God occurs.  We must be like those described in Luke 8:15 in The Parable of the Sower who heard the word and kept it, and brought forth fruit with patience.  In I Corinthians 15:58, Paul said, ” . . . be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. . . .”

Humility

The main point of the parable seems to be given in verse 10.  In verse nine, Jesus asked if the master needed to thank the servant for doing what had been commanded.  Did he need to be thanked after he had simply done his duty?  Jesus said, “I trow not,”, i.e., I think not.  Then he said in verse 10, “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.”  The attitude expressed by verse 10 would certainly be the opposite of pride and self-righteousness.  A man might obey God and then stand up and say, “Look what I have done!”  He might feel as if God owes him his salvation.

Some are like the Pharisee who prayed (Lk. 18:11-12), “… God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”  It is obvious that the Pharisee had the attitude of pride.  When we obey all that God has commanded us, we are still unprofitable (unworthy) servants, and have simply done our duty.  After obeying God, we must not become puffed up, but we are to be “clothed with humility” (I Pet. 5:5).