Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
Luke 17:9 ESV
Shortly before we were married, my wife and I were interim youth and children ministers at a church. During a children’s church service, we conducted a miniature Olympic-style competition between the children, which we divided into two groups. After a series of challenges, one group was declared the winner. We proceeded to pass out the victor’s reward: candy. Much to our surprise, the losing team of children whole-heartedly expected to receive the same reward as the winners, even though we explicitly stated that the prize would go to the winning team.
Nevertheless, their resolve for candy was ironclad.
Intrigued, Tiff and I probed their reasoning. Their response was simple: “because we deserve it.” It took several minutes to display before them the fallacies of their logic. Before the competition began, every child agreed upon the conditions: that the winning team alone would receive the reward. Despite their failing to meet the requirements for the reward, they supposed via their sense of entitlement that the very essence of their self-worth trumped those predetermined conditions. The fact that these were children, some as young as three, shows that this is a matter of the heart. It is a problem of the human condition.
Furthermore, Jesus’ words in the seventeenth chapter of Luke reveal that it is not simply a modern issue. Jesus handles self-entitlement quite succinctly. He asks a simple question: why should we expect thanks for something that we were supposed to do? How often do we manage to perform some act of religiousness only to present it before God so that He can thank us? When we do good, we feel entitled to praise; however, being perfectly good is what God has commanded.
Indeed, we should meditate deeply over this truth: even if we never sinned, we would still fail to deserve praise because we were only doing what was required of us!
Moreover, how often do we falter in the keeping of God’s commands? How sinful and corrupt are our hearts before the holy God? If we would only recognize our true position before God, instead of bringing our entitlement, we would fall upon our hands and knees continuously pleading for grace and mercy. That is the good news of the gospel after all. Jesus Christ offers to us grace and mercy from God the Father through the Spirit, the forgiveness of our multitude of sins. May we be ever humbled because even though we were unworthy servants, Christ our Lord has redeemed us to Himself!