The Servant & The Master
Chan Gin Kai
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 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.’” (Luke 17:7-10)
We call ourselves servants of God. But are we servants by name, but not in action or heart? In this short parable, Jesus addressed what it really means to be a servant.
The Heart Of A Servant
“Servant of God” sounds like a nice little title to call ourselves. But a servant in the Middle East 2,000 years ago is nothing like our employee of modern times. Jesus was naturally making a comparison to the concept of a servant back then. He revealed some hard truths about the kind of heart we need to have as we serve God.
Plowing is hard work. It involves hours of backbreaking labour. It may be a joy to serve God, but it is definitely challenging too. Some of the things we do while serving God can be repetitive and tiring. It doesn’t get easier, and there never seems to be an end either. Had we imagined it to be glorious? It will be when we’re dead… when we finally see Jesus.
And before we think looking after sheep is easy, remember that the shepherd is exposed to the elements, and to predators too. As we care for people, we open up our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable. We expose ourselves to hurts and dangers. Very often, their pain and problems becomes ours. Blames may be shifted to us too.
A servant does what needs to be done, or what his master assigns him to do, regardless of what he prefers. Are we choosy about who or how we want to serve? Do we go where the needs are, or where our preferences incline? It’s great if the needs coincide with our preferences, time and skillsets. But what if they don’t? Will we still serve wholeheartedly?
The servant didn’t get to rest even after a hard day’s work; he had to prepare supper for his master first. He only gets to eat, drink and rest after the work for his master is done. Serving others doesn’t mean our needs will not be met. But it certainly means others’ needs become more important than ours. God and His Kingdom becomes our priority.
The servant did not expect to be thanked for simply doing what he was supposed to do. We may get the occasional thank you card or pat on the shoulder. But let’s not be surprised if our hard work goes unnoticed. It does feel nice to be appreciated of course, but let’s not think we’re entitled to recognition and gratitude when we’re only doing our duty.
Just to be clear, Jesus wasn’t advocating ungratefulness or mistreatment of servants. The focus of his parable was not the attitude of the master, but the heart of the servant. He emphasised the humility, responsibility and sense of duty that we need to develop as we serve God and His people.
The Heart Of Our Master
I’ll bet none of us like the master in this parable, even though he was only behaving according to the societal norms of his time. But how is our Master (God) like?
Is our Master like the one in Jesus’ parable? Does our Master appreciate what we do? Does He care more about us or our performance of our duties?
God sees all that we do, the good and the bad. Just as He punishes the wrong that we do, He appreciates the good that we do too. In another parable that Jesus told involving a master and his servants, that master is much more similar to ours. The master recognised the labour of his faithful servants and rewarded them. “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21, 23)
That’ll be such an amazing thing to hear from our Master one day… “Well done, good and faithful servant... Come and share your master's happiness!”
And what is the happiness that our Master is sharing with us? Heaven!
Talk about being overpaid. Yes, we may have worked hard and sacrificed for God’s Kingdom. We may even have suffered in His name. But to be rewarded with heaven? We know we don’t deserve that. And we’ll never be able to do anything that’s good enough to earn that. That’s how generous our Master is.
God expects us to have the humility, responsibility and sense of duty of a servant. But He is the kindest and most generous Master.
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.