THE ATTITUDE OF AN UNWORTHY SERVANT
Key Verse: 17:10
"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.'"
1. What are some things in our times that might cause people to sin?
Can you think of some examples of how one's relativistic attitude
might cause others to sin? (Think about Lot's life.) How serious is
causing others to sin?
2. Why is rebuking others not safe or popular, but very necessary?
(3) How readily must we forgive others? Why? How did the disciples
respond? Why is faith required for forgiveness? What did Jesus teach
3. Read verses 7-10. In Jesus' time, what was a servant's working day
like? What could a servant expect after coming in from a hard day's
work in the field? What should be the attitude of the servant? Can
you think of some examples of unselfish service?
4. Read verse 10. In this parable, what does it mean to consider one's
self "unworthy"? What does it mean to have the attitude of an
unworthy servant? Why must God's people work with joy and willingness?
Chapter 17:1-10 tells us how serious it is to cause people to sin.
Jesus also teaches us what kind of attitude we must have in the cause
of serving God or after serving God.
First, do not cause others to sin (1-2).
Look at verse 1. "Jesus said to his disciples: 'Things that cause
people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom
they come.'" Jesus admits that the situation of the world is perverse
and adulterous. The end of the 20th century is the post-Christian era
in which secular humanism is rampant. The most tragic phenomenon is
that most people have become pragmatic. In one sense, pragmatism is
good for procuring instant benefit. But pragmatism makes people lose a
sense of history and see one's lifespan as a whole. In this situation,
in the name of human freedom, most people are permissive of promiscuity
without circumspection of their own lives. What is worse, most people
think of God relatively. God does not give immediate benefit. So they
ignore that God is the sovereign Ruler of history and that God cares
for each of us.
So, in this situation, it's not easy for anybody not to cause others
to sin. God said in the Ten Commandments, "Remember the Sabbath day
by keeping it holy" (Ex 20:8). But one father said to his children, "We
must keep the Sabbath holy, right! When we keep the Sabbath holy, God
will bless our family and our descendants. But not to keep the Sabbath
is not too bad. We cannot miss the final football game." This way of
thinking seems to be quite reasonable and it's a small matter. It also
seems exemplary in this generation. But his absence of absolute
attitude makes the word of God seem relative. This way of thinking
causes a serious result to his children. For example, Abraham's sheep
Lot was relativistic toward the word of God, because he loved God. And
at the same time he loved the world. As a result, his relativism caused
his two sons-in-law to think of the word of God as a joke when they
heard about the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:14).
These ungodly men say, "...ever since our fathers died, everything goes
on as it has since the beginning of creation" (2 Pe 3:4). "You are
kidding. The civilization of Sodom and Gomorrah is too great to
destroy, even if it were by God's plan." In the course of raising two
daughters in Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot revealed to his daughters that he
loved God as much as he loved the world. His two daughters knew the
double-mindedness of their father. After the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah, his two daughters stayed in a cave and both of them committed
incest by making their father get drunk until he lost consciousness.
The result of cause and effect is not a Biblical constant. However,
causing others to sin has the most serious effect. How serious is it?
Verse 2 says, "It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea
with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of
these little ones to sin." To cause others to sin is as serious as
killing a person by beating him with a sledgehammer. But these days,
most people cause others to sin just to enjoy sin. They are spiritual
Second, rebuke (3).
Look at verse 3b. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he
repents, forgive him." This is our Lord's command. These days, many
people say, "You do your work, I'll do mine. Don't bother me, and I
won't bother you. Okay!" These days, this mentality has become the
social consensus. Living in this cultural atmosphere, generally people
don't bother others because they don't want to be sued. One prayerful
minister encouraged a foxy woman not to fish many handsome men who were
already married. But she did not listen to the pastor. So the pastor
called a meeting of the elders of the church. The pastor invited her
and earnestly pleaded with her not to live an immoral life. Then the
woman sued the church and won the case. The church had to pay her
$200,000 for the violation of human rights. Many parents don't rebuke
their children to live in the sight of God, partly because they do not
like to rebuke and mainly because they have no spiritual authority to
rebuke their children, due to their own corrupted lives.
Rebuking others' sin seems to be against the social consensus.
Still, we must rebuke others' sins. Rebuking is the best love in the
sight of God. It is like giving proper medicine to a sick person.
Joseph in the Old Testament is a good person whom God intended to raise
as the most exemplary person so that the world might be filled with
people like Joseph. We call Joseph a shadow of Jesus Christ. In
character, he was too nice to rebuke others. But Joseph rebuked his
brothers until they repented of their sin of plotting to kill their
bother Joseph and selling him to an unknown foreign country. It was a
heart-breaking period of time for him, but he accomplished his mission
of helping his brothers repent of their sins so that they were fully
qualified to be the twelve Patriarchs of Israel. Jesus said, "Those
whom I love I rebuke and discipline" (Rev 3:19a). If we love our
brothers, we must rebuke them when they are not right before God.
Third, forgive (3-6).
Look at verse 3 again. In this verse, Jesus commands us to forgive
our brother if he repents. When we study the Bible prayerfully, we
learn how to forgive others' sins. Jesus urges his disciples to forgive
others' sins seven times a day if they repent (4). Matthew 18:22 says
to forgive seventy-seven times. We must forgive others' sins endlessly
if they repent.
How did the disciples respond? They were startled by Jesus'
teaching, because they were not ready to forgive others' sins. They
were familiar with Moses' law, "a tooth for a tooth" (Ex 21:24). So
they said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" They thought they needed a
mountain-like faith to forgive others' sins. But Jesus answered that
faith is not a matter of quantity but of quality. So he said, "If you
have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry
tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you" (6).
This verse indicates that faith the size of a mustard seed is enough to
forgive others' sins. Forgiving others' sins is the most difficult
thing to do. When we read "Plutarch's Lives," so many heroes who did
many great things had no strength to forgive their adversaries. So they
died of harboring grudges. They were known as conquerors. But they
could not conquer themselves. Outwardly they were heroes. Yet inwardly
they had the hearts of cockroaches. They were not mature enough to
forgive others. But Jesus forgave all our sins. So Jesus says in Mark
11:25, "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against
anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your
sins." On the cross, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not
know what they are doing" (Lk 23:34a).
Fourth, the attitude of an unworthy servant (7-10).
The parable in verses 7-10 tells us that the servants worked all day
long in the field, perhaps from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., from sunrise to
sunset, like the song in "Fiddler on the Roof," "Sunrise, Sunset,
Sunrise, Sunset...." The servants came back home when the day of work
was over. They must have expected to hear, "Well done, my faithful
servant. You worked hard in the heat. Eat and get some rest." To our
surprise, the master said, "Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and
wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink." It
is common sense that to the servants who worked hard in the heat all
day long it is fair and proper to be told, "Please go home and eat and
rest well." But this parable tells us that the servants are supposed to
serve the master's dinner table. After that they can eat and rest.
This part of the story tells us our basic attitude and divine duty
between God and his children. As we experience, attitude is expression
of heart and spirit. Attitude is basic to our constitution. This basic
attitude and divine duty can be seen only in Jesus. Jesus is truly
great because he did not want to be served, but to serve. Serving makes
man truly great. It was 1777 mid-winter. George Washington had to keep
one of the fortresses, Valley Forge, with his soldiers. Because of
transportation difficulties, supplies were not properly delivered. As a
result, the soldiers had to suffer from cold weather and hunger. The
soldiers under George Washington did not know if they were fighting
with enemies or with cold weather and hunger. They were about to lose
their spirit and morale. One day, George Washington saw one of his
soldiers chewing diligently one part of his shoes. Wishing to hug him,
he cried. Then he gave up his privilege as commander and began to visit
his men to encourage them. His fatherly care and encouragement enhanced
the spirit and morale of soldiers under his care. Soon the soldiers
realized that they had to win the war for the unification of their
country and the future happiness of their children.
As we know well, our father Abraham was old and well advanced in
years. The Lord had blessed him in every way (Ge 24:1ff.) Since God
gave him a one and only son, Abraham was very possessive and obsessive.
But as always, all people have one or two nagging problems of life.
Abraham had a marriage problem for his son Isaac. Abraham thought that
he could not keep his son Isaac in his house anymore and enjoy him when
Isaac was 40 years old. So he called his servant to go to his hometown
where his relatives lived and get a bride for Isaac, so that Isaac
would not marry a Canaanite woman. The servant wanted Isaac to go with
him. Abraham said, "No, you go by yourself" (6). On the way, the
servant prayed again and again. When he opened his eyes after prayer,
there was a girl named Rebekah. When the servant asked for some water
to drink, she gave him a drink and was happy to say, "let your animals
drink, too" (19). So Abraham's servant was convinced that God gave him
success. Rebekah let them go to her house and Rebekah's family members
urged him to eat and rest some. Abraham's servant said, "I will not eat
until I have told you what I have to say" (33). Then Abraham's servant
told Rebekah's family members the story from beginning to end in
detail. Rebekah's family members were all convinced and said, "This is
from the Lord; we can say nothing to you one way or the other" (50).
But the family members said, "She is there," and they asked Rebekah
whether she would stay ten days more. Then she said, "I will go" (58).
Abraham's servant was old. But he did something impossible, because he
had the basic attitude and divine duty.
Since David became a king, the first work to be done was to destroy
the nagging enemies, the Philistines. King David had been victorious
until most of the fortresses of the Philistines were conquered. When
David was at the cave of Adullam, he wanted to drink some water from a
well near Bethlehem. His loyal generals sensed that King David wanted
some water from the well near Bethlehem. So the three mighty generals
broke through the Philistine lines and drew water from the well and
carried it back to David. The three mighty generals help us understand
a little more the concept of unworthy servant. Here we must think more
about the word "unworthy servant."
Look at verse 10. "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.'" Jesus told his disciples this story to teach us to
have a right attitude to be his heavenly children. The worldly servant
works hard and complains enough to let out his frustration and anger.
But the children of God must do whatever they do with great willingness
and thanks and overflowing joy in their work places. We, the children
of God, must do everything to please God. We, the children of God, must
think that to do the work of God is divine privilege. We, the children
of God, are not hirelings, looking at our watches every ten minutes
waiting for the time to go home. But we, the children of God, must cry
many tears, saying, "Who am I that God gave me the privilege of working
for the glory of God?" Jesus' words remind us of King David. God
appointed David king of Israel and ordained him by the prophet Samuel.
A shepherd boy became a king all of a sudden. But he did not feel
exalted. He thanked God. 2 Samuel 7:18 says, "Then King David went in
and sat before the LORD, and he said: 'Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and
what is my family, that you have brought me this far?'" He was grateful
to be used by God as a shepherd of God's flock. He thought that he was
unworthy to shepherd God's flock. What David said to God sounds as if
he were crying many tears. David's attitude is exactly Jesus' meaning
of the unworthy servant.
Today we mainly learned the attitude of an unworthy servant. Today
is the last week of this year. In 1995 we were happy when we had a
right attitude of unworthy servants of God. We were not happy if our
attitude in the sight of God was not right. May God give us the
attitude of unworthy servants.