7 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’? 8 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’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded [e]him? I think not. 10 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 17:7-10
Last week I talked a bit about digging out the roots of our own sins with faith, and not causing our brothers and sisters offense, making them stumble. It’s hard stuff. So hard that when Jesus told His disciples that no matter how many times they were offended, they had to forgive, their only response was, “Lord, increase our faith!”
After Jesus answers that with needing faith to dig out those roots of sin and unforgiveness, he goes on to the part I just quoted above. It might seem a bit like a non sequitur, right? That these things aren’t related.
But they are.
Jesus just got done telling the disciples about the hard work required for growing faith, and the hard work faith must perform. And I imagine He was anticipating our very human reactions:
“Seriously?? You want me to do all that? All the time? Day in and day out? Come on, Lord…I need a vacation. I tell You what—I’ll give you this many hours a week, okay? Or maybe this many years of my life. Then I’m going to travel. Then I’m going to relax. Then I’m going to put some of my hard-earned money into this thing over here and live the good life.”
Christ does tell us that His yoke is easy and His burden light…but He also says this thing here in Luke 17. He says we are His servants—and what is the role of a servant? To do the work of the master. When? Always. Even after we’ve put in a full day’s work. Even when we’re tired and fed up and lonely and in need of a nice hot bath and pizza. Even when we’re not sure we can keep going another minute.
Scratch that—especially then.
Because when we’re tired and worn out and hangry, that’s when we’re made strong in Him.
When we’re not sure we can take another step, that’s when we lean on Him.
When we’ve given Him our best hours and days and months and years out in His fields, that’s when we get to come inside and bask in His presence. Still serving. But serving the One we love, giving Him what he asks of us, and knowing that we’re doing what is necessary for the Kingdom.
In The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis has a rather brilliant observation about mankind. We have this mistaken idea that our time is our own—that we just give some to God, or to our families, or to our bosses. But that ultimately it is ours, something we own, and so we have every right to be resentful of that time “taken” from us by annoying neighbors or unforeseen problems or work we don’t want to do.
But we’re wrong. Our time is His. Our every moment, our every breath is a gift from God. We are only here because He put us here; and He could call us home at any moment. These seconds and hours and days we spend on earth are for one purpose: His.
He has every right to our time. Because He is the master, and we are His servants. Which means that our every day ought to be given to Him, to whatever He wants for us. Maybe sometimes that will mean a time of refreshing, a vacation, a rest—He’s a loving Master, after all, He knows we need that. But never will it ever mean that it’s time to think only of ourselves. Our wants. Our desires. Never will we have earned that right. Because we are unprofitable servants, and we are only doing our duty when we serve Him. We’re not putting time in the bank that we can then cash in.
So how do we do that? How do we give each moment to Him? Well, I think it’s by knowing our “why.” Knowing why we’re in the job we’re in; knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing with our families; knowing why we go to church. Is it just for us? Or is for His kingdom? Am I working for a paycheck, or to reach others for Him? Am I just treading water, counting down the hours or years until some other thing happens? Then I’m doing it wrong.
Now is the time to serve. Today is the day of the harvest. And tonight we set a feast before the Lord. Not resentful of the time we have to spend doing it…but knowing He granted us those moments for this purpose.