At the end of the day, can you look back and say you were really profitable, or did you only do what was required of you? Just how much does God expect of His begotten children? Just what does it mean to be a worthy or profitable servant?
Do we as Christians sometime feel that despite our efforts we are not growing spiritually as we should? Several years ago, one church brethren said this: “I’m trying the best I can, but I just don’t see much spiritual growth in my life. What is wrong with me? Am I really an unworthy servant?
Does this sound like you from time to time? This question this person asked, concerns every one of us in the Church of God.
The Apostle Peter tells us in II Peter 3:17-18 “But you, my friends whom I love, are forewarned, and should therefore be very careful not to be carried away by the errors of unprincipled men and so lose your proper foothold. On the contrary, you should grow in grace and in knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to him be glory now and until the day of eternity.
In other words, we are to overcome our carnal tendencies and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ. But what may cause our growth sometimes to either stop or slow down? Is it possible to be a good Christian and still be unprofitable servants? Just what does God require of His begotten children?
One of the best known incidents in the Bible is the short conversation that took place between Jesus Christ and a young, wealthy man. From what little we have about this young man, he was conscious of his duties, faithful and respectful. Not only that, but this young man came to Jesus Christ and knelt down before Him: “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17)?
Christ told him: “if thou wilt enter into life keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17). And the young man said, “which”? Christ told him to keep the commandments, and then named some of the Ten Commandments.
The commandments that Jesus quoted define man’s relationship with his neighbor, but unlike many people today, this man didn’t argue with the answer. This young man recognized the validity of the order and the importance of keeping God’s law. (People today want to believe in Jesus Christ, they just don’t want to believe what he said.)
And just like today, this young man believed that he was a profitable servant: “Master, all these I have observed from my youth” (v. 20).
This was an unusual man; he loved God, and was loved by Him. How many today could stand before Jesus Christ and tell Him boldly I have observed from their youth to keep His commandments? So, with this conversation with Jesus: he thought he had passed the test. What else could there have been for him to do in order to receive his reward?
Christ was not finished with him yet: “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up thy cross and follow me” (v. 21). A harsh order, or so it seemed!
Why should anyone be asked to give up so much if he was already doing his best to be good and keep the laws of God, the Ten Commandments? From a human carnal mind, this made no sense, this young man was unwilling to go that far: “he went away (grieved or sorrowful) because he had great possessions” (v. 22).
Was this young man a profitable servant? Would your answer be no he wasn’t and of course you would be correct. The question is what would you have done if you had been in his place? Are we doing any better with our own possessions right now, however big or small?
If our sense of values is no better than this young mans, then we are an unworthy or unprofitable servant! Would it come as a shock to you if God told you that he expects of you the impossible? That is exactly what the disciples felt when they heard Jesus’ answer. But would God really ask the impossible? That all depends upon what is meant by impossible and who is doing the asking.
“When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (vs. 25-26).
What seems impossible to us is possible with God. What is the greatest gift you can receive in this life? It is the gift of the Holy Spirit; true converted members of God’s Church have been given something the rest of the world does not have. Therefore much more has been required of us:
“But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).
You and I cannot conquer our human nature, no matter how great our human efforts are. But God can and does do it through you with His Holy Spirit. We cannot fight against Satan the Devil and the lust of this world, but God can and will if we obey Him.
Through our own efforts we are unable to do very much, but with God’s Spirit you can do the impossible. What God requires on our part is to do His will, to surrender to God and let Him shape and use us as He wishes.
Are there members in God’s Church believing that they are doing their part by merely living good lives? These members may be in good standing and willing to serve whenever called upon. But just like this young man with great possessions, these “Good Christians” may be left wondering what is left for me to do to inherit eternal life? But that isn’t good enough to please God.
People today who don’t have God’s Holy Spirit, calling themselves Christians, can live good clean lives. But if our righteousness and deeds don’t exceed theirs, we will not enter into the Kingdom of God. The problem is: they don’t have God’s Holy Spirit, but we do! Therefore Christianity must have for us a different connotation. Keeping God’s Ten Commandments, paying His tithes, observing His Sabbath, and His feast days, all these things God requires of us. But they will not make us a worthy servant. We must go over and above these requirements; we must do what others in the world can not do.
God’s Holy Spirit in us will not only help us obey His commandments in the letter and in the spirit, but it will also help us fight against the things we are humanly unable to conquer. We must go over and above the call of duty, because we have received God’s Spirit, a Spirit of love and power that enables us to do what, with human nature, we are unwilling or unable to do.
This is exactly why Jesus Christ said: “When you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).
Christ revealed in the Sermon on the Mount, the difference between what we humanly can do, and the humanly impossible things God’s Spirit can do through us.
“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill: and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:21). Now this is a law any person can learn to keep if that person has received the proper education. A person can go through his whole life without ever being guilty of this crime.
But if won’t make him or her a profitable servant. Christ went on to say: “That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire” (v. 22).
What is the point: this part of the law is impossible for any human being to keep without God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit gives us the help we need not to insult our brother or not to get angry with him.
“You have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not commit adultery” (Matt. 5:27). There are a lot of people in this world that have learned not to commit adultery. They are faithful to their mates. Are we in this respect a better Christian than they are? Do we in God’s Church obey Jesus Christ who said: “Whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (v. 28).
If we are a faithful husband or wife, but we still lust after another person, then we are far from being a worthy servant.
“You have heard that it hath been said of them of old time, thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths” (v. 33). Any well intentioned human being with the right education can refrain from taking God’s name in vain, using foul language, and not swearing. But, we as Christians with God’s Holy Spirit must do something others can’t do:
“We must not swear at all; neither by heaven, nor by the earth, neither by Jerusalem, neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black (vs. 34-36).
Now, what about love? Is our love as a Christian different from the love of someone who does not have God’s Spirit? “You have heard it been said, thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy” (v. 43).
Now lots of people can keep this commandment, because it is easy to love someone who loves you or is close to you. And it is just as easy to hate someone who is your enemy or wants to hurt you.
But Christ said: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (v. 44). It is impossible to love your enemies the way you love your friends, unless you have God’s Spirit.
It is hard, not easy, to ask God to bless someone who hates you and who will seize every opportunity to hurt and persecute you. But as a Christian, you have to help your enemies in need, do good to them and even lay down your life for them. Indeed, much is required of profitable servants.
We Christians don’t work, give or serve to be seen of men, but of God, because our reward is not of men but of God.
When Christ said in Matthew 5:48 “Become you therefore perfect,” this is only possible by allowing God’s Spirit to do through us what we humanly can’t or don’t want to do.
If keeping the commandments has become routine for us, or we keep them just because it is required of us, then we are an unworthy servant. If we are paying tithes because we can get a tax deduction, then none of the money we pay, no matter how much, will make us a worthy servant. To serve or give because you expect something in return shows carnal mindedness.
The poor widow who gave all she had as an offering, did she expect anything in return? Did men see it? “Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow has cast in more than they all: for all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offering of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had” (Luke 21:3-4).
This poor widow was a worthy servant, not because of what she gave, but because of the spirit in which she gave, her godly attitude, her devotion and love. That is what made her do more than was required of her.
Now, what is the difference between a good work and good works? Whatever your task, you must endeavor to do a good work. That is required of you. But besides doing a good work, we must have good works, works that are not required of us, and which you perform without expecting anything in return.
“Now there was at Joppa, a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas, this woman was full of good works, and alms deeds which she did. And it came to pass in those days that she was sick, and died; whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber” (Acts. 9:36-37).
They sent for Peter and they brought him to the upper room. “And all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down and prayed; and turning him to the body said Tabitha, arise, and she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up” (v. 40).
Why did God resurrect her? Because of her good works, her good works would be a testimony in her favor to be brought back to life? She had done more than was required of her without expecting anything in return. She was a worthy servant.
What about us in God’s Church today? Do we have enough good works? Just keeping the commandments and praying every day and living a good Christian life are only part of the requirements of conversion, they won’t necessarily make you a worthy servant. We have to do what others can’t do without God’s Holy Spirit.
We can’t be a profitable servant if we are selfish and lazy. We can’t please God if we do only what is required of us, in order to seen of men. Christ set us an example. Look how hard He Himself worked. How much He sacrificed and what He gave up.
More than anyone else, He lived to help, to serve and to sacrifice. He always did more than what was required of Him.
Do good works without ever expecting anything in return, and remember, if the people around you don’t see them, God does.
If God sees your good works, that’s all that really matters. He will find you to be a profitable servant, and one day you will hear Him tell you: “Come, ye blessed of my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”