“So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done that which we ought to have done.’”
I recently began reading a book entitled Invisibles — Celebrating the Unsung Heroes of the Workplace. This book is about people who choose lines of work that do not place them in the lime light, but rather allow them to work behind the scenes in ways that have a profound impact. One of the first examples given is a recording engineer named Andy Johns, who worked with bands like Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, and Van Halen. While almost everyone on Earth has heard of those bands, very few know who Andy Johns is or how profoundly he impacted the soundscapes created by those artists. The book, so far as I have read, is good and it shows the power of what Jesus commands in this morning’s verse.
Prior to this verse, Jesus gives a little story by way of illustration. He talks about a slave owner whose slave has been out working in the fields all day long and comes in. The master does not tell the slave to wash up, kick back at the table, and have some dinner. The master, understandably, tells the slave to wash up and serve dinner.
Jesus instructs His disciples to do what is commanded of them and, when that is done, to account themselves as only doing what ought to have been done. A servant’s job is to serve. Why should the servant expect praise for doing his job? Yet that is precisely what many of us do — we expect praise for doing what should be done.
The modern Western world reinforces this bad behavior. Young people are given participation trophies, as if participation is anything more than what should be done when one makes a commitment. And that is just one of dozens of examples of how the culture in which I live is trying to subvert a very basic truth: To do what I ought to do does not require any recognition. My boss need not praise me for completing the work assigned to me. If I complete it better or faster than required, that might be noteworthy, but it is still, in the final estimation, no more than me doing my job. My recognition for doing my job comes in the form of a paycheck. Likewise, when I obey God I should not look for any sort of pat on the back from Him. Obedience is nothing more or less than He deserves.
The reality is that I — and every believer with me — am an unworthy bondslave to my God and Savior and my obedience is nothing less than He has commanded and nothing less than He deserves.