Today Jesus tells me to call myself an unworthy servant. With such unflattering words, Jesus does not coddle me, but he does get me thinking. And I think he encourages me to call on him as both my master and my friend.
In Luke 17, Jesus describes a master-servant relationship in unsentimental terms. At the end of a work day, the master does not invite the servant to sit at table with him. The master does not thank the servant for doing what he was commanded. From such practices, Jesus concludes: “So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)
Once again, Jesus disconcerts me. Doesn’t Jesus want to sit at table with me? Can’t I hope for a little appreciation, as in: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”? (Matthew 25:23)
With his unflattering words in Luke 17, Jesus does not give an exhaustive description of his relationship with us. Instead, he provokes us to examine why we serve him. So I ask myself: Do I sow his word and prepare his table in order to gain praise? Am I tempted to quit when people don’t seem to appreciate me enough? Sadly, I confess mixed motives; happily, I discern Jesus offering a more excellent way. When I silence my ego and truly listen to Jesus, I can do my duty less as a way to seek recognition and more as a way to participate in God’s saving love for the world.
Speaking of saving love: In another Gospel passage, Jesus says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) Friendship with the Master of the Universe? I don’t feel worthy of it, but I sure do want it. So I find myself remembering old hymn as a prayer:
Oh, give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend