Luke 17:5-10

Serving Does Not Make You A Servant

October 2, 2016


I have a question for you today: Do you see yourself as a volunteer, or as a servant?  There’s a big difference between the two. A volunteer can pick and choose when to volunteer to serve, and even whether to volunteer to serve.  A servant, however, serves whenever and wherever needed.  A volunteer might serve when it is convenient, but a servant serves out of commitment and a sense of duty, whether it’s convenient or not.

In Luke 17:5-10, the passage before us today, Jesus is talking about the importance of being a servant. If you’re serious about growing as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you need to pay attention to His teaching about being a servant. You see, serving doesn’t always make you a servant, but if you are a servant, you will always serve.

I see several secrets of servanthood in this passage.

First, a servant’s work is not always glamorous.

In the first part of verse 7 Jesus says: “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after sheep.” Jesus might be referring to a farmer with only one servant who has to multi-task throughout the day. The servant might do the back-breaking work of plowing and then the tedious work of watching sheep. Maybe his muscles would scream as he plowed, then he might scream out of boredom as he watched the sheep. Every day would be filled with these same activities and then he’d get up the next day and do it all over again. Over time this servant’s daily responsibilities would probably became routine and his tasks not thrilling at all.

Friends, if you find yourself picking and choosing how much or where you will serve and only wanting the more glamorous or noticeable tasks, I suggest that you check your motives. In fact, if you’re not willing to do whatever is needed and whenever you are needed, I suggest that you may not really be committed to serving God.

Bill Hybels puts it this way: “I would never want to reach out someday with a soft, uncalloused hand, a hand never dirtied by serving, and shake the nail-pierced hand of Jesus.”

Something to think about, is it not? 

Serving doesn’t always make you a servant but if you are a servant you will always serve.

A servant’s work is not always glamorous. 

Here’s a second secret to servanthood I see in this passage:

A servant’s work never ends

After working all day, Jesus says that the servant comes back to the master’s house. He’s probably tired and hungry but it still is not time to relax. The servant’s specific job description may change but the truth of the matter is that work never ends. Actually, the job description for a servant is very simple and straightforward: “Do everything your Master commands.” Listen to how Jesus said it in the second half of verse 7 and verse 8:

“Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’”?

The servant goes from the working in the fields to fixing food, but the servant serves whenever and wherever,  and serves whoever. A servant does whatever it takes to get the job done.

If you are going to be a servant of Jesus, you need to be serving all the time.

Matthew Henry in his commentary on this passage puts it this way:  “We must make the end of one act of service the beginning of another.” 

This means that, if you see yourself as a servant, when you get up in the morning you look for ways to serve your family, during the day you look for ways to serve others, when you come home you keep looking for ways to serve your family, and when you are at Church, guess what? You look for ways to serve.

            A servant’s work never ends.

            I heard about a little girl who finally learned how to tie her shoes, but instead of being excited, she started crying. Her dad bent down and asked her why she was crying. “I now know how to tie my own shoes,” she said. Her dad responded, “You just learned how. It’s not that hard.” The little girl started wailing and said, “I know, but now that I know how to do it, I’m going to have to do it for the rest of my life.”

            Maybe you feel like you’ve already put your time in, already done your part,  already served all you should serve.  Maybe you feel that you’ve served enough, and that it’s time to sit back and relax a bit. Well, here’s the thing: If you’re still breathing, you’re still a servant. The location and intensity of your serving may change as the seasons of your  life change, but no Christian has the option of not serving when there are things still to be done.

            So, a servant’s work is not glamorous and it’s never done 

Here’s a third secret to servanthood that I see in this passage: A servant should not expect to be thanked.  

After working all day, the servant in  Jesus’ story is no doubt tired. A word of appreciation would mean so much to him, but it never comes. Look at verse 9: “Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?” The implied answer is a strong “no.”

Maybe you think that God somehow owes you for all that you do for Him. The truth is that God doesn’t owe you anything. You are not entitled to a word of thanks or appreciation when you serve God and others. Serving God and others is your duty and it should be your delight to do so. God is under no obligation to reward you.

Now, let me clarify something. It’s not wrong to show appreciation to someone who serves. A word of thanks and appreciation and encouragement can go a long way.  We need to show appreciation to someone who is serving and encourage them and acknowledge what they are doing. However, it is wrong to expect acknowledgment and make that the motivation for your service.

Serving doesn’t always make you a servant; but if you are a servant you will  always serve.

A servant’s work is not glamourous, it is never done, and a servant should not expect t be thanked.  

Here’s a fourth secret of servanthood I see in this passage: A servant does what is expected.   

Jesus concludes this parable with some corrective words to those who feel they have done something special or extraordinary when they serve. “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.’”

Unfortunately, too many times you might want to know what serving will cost you and how it might benefit you, and if the benefits outweigh the costs, and you can fit it into your schedule, then you will volunteer to do it. This verse helps you see what being a servant is all about. A servant’s heart is intent upon, and their will is bound to, the will and wishes of the person they are serving.  In other words, if you are someone’s servant, what they say goes.  

So, here are four secrets to servanthood I see here in Luke 17:5-10:

 A servant’s service is not always glamorous.
A servant’s service never ends.
A servant should not expect to be thanked.
A servant does what is expected.

Someone was once asked how a person could know if they are a servant.  The answer was to the point and very profound:  

“You know you’re a servant by how you act when you’re treated like one”

When you’re treated like a servant, do you get offended?

When someone forgets to say thanks do you get upset?

Do you think you’re worthy of or deserve recognition?

The issue is really one of having the heart and the attitude of Jesus, the heart and attitude Jesus calls you to have, which is the heart and attitude of a servant.

You have to decide if you are going to serve yourself or serve God and others.

Serving doesn’t always  make you a servant, but if you are truly a servant, you will always serve.

Friends, Jesus offers nourishment and strength for those who will serve Him and others.  As we gather with God’s people around His table and partake of the bread and the cup, Jesus invites you to consider whether you see yourself as a volunteer or a servant, and invites you to commit to being the servant He calls you to be. Amen.