And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” (Luke 17:5-10)
Servitude Increases Faith
The world frowns on servitude. Slavery has become a vile word of degradation and oppression. There is justification for the negative view of slavery, but there is also a cost of losing a sense of the most important relationship man shares with God. In the New Testament world of Jesus Christ, servitude was a common practice, embraced by the world as necessary and with purpose. Jesus used slavery to show the connection between His Father and His disciples. Paul alluded to slavery as a pattern of the child of God. When Paul wrote to Philemon about his servant Onesimus, he exhorted him to receive him back as a servant but now as a Christian. Servitude has a vivid lesson to teach about what it means to be a Christian.
The apostles came to Jesus seeking greater faith. They wanted to increase their faith. There are many lessons Jesus could teach to help the twelve develop a stronger faith in God and the work of the kingdom. The lesson He gave was unexpected and powerful. First, Jesus reminds them of the power of faith. Like a tiny mustard seed that grows to great heights, faith can empower the heart of men to say to a mulberry tree to be uprooted and cast into the sea. The point Jesus was making was not for the twelve to go around throwing trees in the ocean, but that is the nature of faith. It can accomplish great things. When the twelve heard this application, they probably shook their heads in agreement understanding the great power found in faith.
Then Jesus switches the story completely and tells the twelve a parable that must have rocked them to their core. Jesus describes a common practice with slavery. A man has a servant who toils all day under the hot sun plowing or tending sheep. Finishing his work, the slave comes in from the field for some relief. The servant would like to sit down and eat, but that is not his station in life. After doing all the work in the field, he must now come and prepare the supper for the master, serve the meal to the family, and then afterward eat his meal. Will the master thank the servant for all he has done? Indeed, not.
The story of the unprofitable servant is a harsh reality of faith. Slavery is a dark subject for humanity, but when it comes to a relationship with the Creator of the universe, man is nothing more than an unprofitable slave. At the end of the day, all men are servants of the Most High God and, at best, unprofitable servants. Faith comes from knowing who God is and where man finds himself with the Lord. God created man; man did not create God. The Creator holds the universe in His hand; man holds a clod of dirt. There is no comparison to the majesty of God and the creation of humanity. God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, which is the measure of God’s love. Faith comes from knowing that all man can do is present himself before the great I AM as an unprofitable servant. It is then, and only then, can the soul of man see the need to be a servant to others. Pride is foolish because there is nothing to be proud about.
This year is a time of renewing the spirit of serving others. Two thousand years ago, the greatest Servant came and died for the world. There is no greater sacrifice than the death of Jesus Christ. Faith comes from knowing we are all unprofitable servants who do not deserve the grace and mercy of God. Let this year be a time to be a servant to others. The person you help is your fellow servant. When we have done all we can do, we are unprofitable servants who have done our duty.