The Attitude of an Unworthy Servant
Key Verse: 17:10
“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.’”
For last three weeks we have learned that there is joy in heaven when one lost sinner repents, that we should use worldly wealth to serve God and gain friends, and that our eternal destiny of heaven or hell is up to how we live in this world -- live for only ourselves or live for God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. In today’s passage, we will learn about the attitude of unworthy servants after we think about sinful influence, rebuking, and forgiving. Let us pray that we may be touched through today’s passage and grow in spirit to become a good disciple of Jesus.
Look at verse 1. ”Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.”” According to Jesus’ words, there are things that cause people to sin are bound to come.
Look at verse 2. “It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” What’s worse about sin, it has bad influences to other people. For example, if one influences others to use drugs or to be sexually immoral, that is a bad influence. There are several ways one can cause others to sin. False teachings and deception lead people into sin. Persecutions cause people to live in fear. Some people seduce others into a wicked, ungodly activity. The consequence of being a sinful influence to others is serious and tragic. This is why Jesus said that it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Here “little one” means young Christians who have just started to believe Jesus as their Savior. Disciples and mature Christians must be careful about the influence of their words and actions upon young believers. We must be careful of our teachings and our lifestyle. This is especially true of church leaders and mature Christians. Careless actions and critical words can cause young believers to sin. JBF members’ careless actions and critical words can cause little CBF members to sin or other JBF members.
In 1 Corinthians 8, Paul talks about eating food sacrificed to idols. For Paul eating food sacrificed to idols was not a problem at all because he knew that an idol is nothing at all and there is no God but one. But some young Christians, who had worshiped idols before, thought of it as having been sacrificed to an idol. Since their conscience was weak, they thought they were guilty. Even eating food sacrificed to idols was not a problem but a personal matter for Paul, he was careful that the exercise of his freedom would not become a stumbling block to the weak. He even said like this, “When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.”(1 Corinthians 8:12-13)
All of us here have freedom to do whatever we want to do with our strong and clear conscience. For example, we can put on hot pants, mini-skirts, and saggy pants that show the underwear in the hot summer seasons because everybody does and we like them for the purpose of fashion or something else. But according to the Bible, sometimes we should be careful of exercising our freedom to do whatever we want to do for the sake of little and weak brothers and sisters in Christ. We should not judge them weak or little in faith, and rather protect them from the things that cause them to sin as a good shepherd like Jesus. I pray that we may be considerate toward each other in actions and words so we can build up better, healthy Christian community among ourselves.
Look at verse 3. “So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.”” Here is another thing to learn. When we see someone in the church sin, we should rebuke him. This does not mean that we point out others’ sins and judge them in public. The intention of rebuking is to restore and build up spiritual fellowship among brothers and sisters and win them over as our precious family members and coworkers (Matthew 18:15). Therefore when we rebuke, we do so with compassion and love of Jesus. In other words, if we do not have compassion and love of Jesus but anger in our heart toward brothers who keep sinning, we better pray to God earnestly for them and wait for God’s help in silence. Actually, rebuking requires love, patience, gentleness, and a lot of works of prayer. That’s why Paul mentions as follows. “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2) When we see or hear of Christian brothers or sister's sin, we should not ignore it and hope it goes away. Jesus commands us to rebuke the person, in order to restore this person in love.
On the other hand, it is also important how to respond when we are rebuked. According to verse 3, we better repent to be forgiven by God and our brothers. Somehow it is harder to repent when we are rebuked than to rebuke. When we realize by ourselves that we are wrong, we repent relatively easily. But when we are rebuked we are not likely to repent, but fight back against by condemning the person who rebukes. We say, “How about you? Who do you think you are? Mind your own business.”
In Galatians 2, we see that Peter came to
Here are four helpful suggestions when we are rebuked or criticized. First, commit the matter instantly to God, asking Him to remove all resentment or counter-criticism on your part and teach you the needed lessons. Second, remember that we are all great sinners and that the one who has rebuked or criticized us does not begin to know the worst about us. Third, if you have made a mistake or committed a sin, humbly and frankly confess it to God and to anyone you may have injured. Fourth, be willing to learn afresh that you are not infallible and that you need God's grace and wisdom every moment of the day to keep on the straight path. When I was middle school student, one of my classmates and I burst into laughter in the middle of math class because our math teacher made some mistakes in his calculation on the blackboard. Then, the math teach called my friend and me in front of other students and rebuked us by slapping each one of us on the face and making us pretend to be riding on a bike till the end of the class. He said, “Don’t laugh at teacher’s mistake.” It must have sounded a sneer to him even though we did not mean it seriously. His rebuke was so shameful and harsh and merciless that I have never made the same mistake sine then. Anyway, when we are rebuked, let's accept what is true and act upon it and become a stronger person of faith in God. He who profits from rebuke is wise. I pray that JBF member may be wise enough to benefit from rebuke.
Look at verse 4. “If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” Not long before she died in 1988, in a moment of surprising candor in television, Marghanita Laski, one of best-known secular humanists and novelists and atheist, said, “What I envy most about you Christians is your forgiveness; I have nobody to forgive me.” Next thing we have to think about is to forgive, which is most wonderful blessing given by God. Imagine that we never forgive others? We must be crazy. Jesus tells us to forgive our brothers’ sin if they say to us, “I repent.” Interestingly Jesus wants us to forgive not just one time, even seven times in a day, which means out of all limits. In fact, it is very difficult to forgive someone who hurt or wounded us or our close friends or family physically and mentally. Let me tell you a little bit funny stories. There were two brothers who went to their rabbi to settle a longstanding feud. The rabbi got the two to reconcile their differences and shake hands. As they were about to leave, he asked each one to make a wish for the other in honor of the Jewish New Year. The first brother turned to the other and said, “I wish you what you wish me.” At that, the second brother threw up his hands and said, “See, Rabbi, he's starting up again!” The other one goes like this. When Narvaez, the Spanish patriot, lay dying, his father-confessor asked him whether he had forgiven all his enemies. Narvaez looked astonished and said, “Father, I have no enemies, I have shot them all.” Likewise it seems impossible for us to forgive others.
Even though it seems hard to forgive, we must and can do it because Jesus has forgiven us all our dirty sins. We have been forgiven of our sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. As we are forgiven, we are obligated to forgive others who sin against us. Moreover, Jesus taught his disciples to pray in Luke 11:4 “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” After teaching this prayer Jesus said, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mt 6:14-15) Forgiving is not just for others, but also for ourselves. When we forgive, our sins are also forgiven by Jesus.
By the way, we learn we have to forgive. Then how can we be sure of being forgiven ourselves by God? If we are sure we are forgiven by Jesus’ blood every day, then we could be full of God’s love in our hearts. Then we can forgive others. So it is important to be sure about being forgiven by God. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Let me help you to be sure of God’s forgiveness for you with a short story. In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he said, “The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary.” The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked, “Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?” “Yes, he did,” she replied. “And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?” “Yes.” “Well, what did he say?” “He said, ‘I don't remember’” What God forgives, He forgets. Let us pray that we may be sure we are forgiven by the blood of Jesus and we may forgive our brothers and sisters with Jesus’ love we have received.
Look at verse 5. “The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”” The apostles listened quietly to Jesus' teaching until he mentioned forgiving a brother 7 times in one day. Then they interrupted. “Increase our faith!” Maybe the apostles of Jesus felt they needed more faith to forgive again and again as Jesus commanded. In response to their request, Jesus said in verse 6, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.” What does transplanting mulberry trees have to do with faith and forgiveness? Any tree is hard to move, because of its deep roots. It might take a powerful tornado or hurricane to move a tree. Sometimes forgiving others seems harder than transplanting a tree. Sometimes a grudge or ill feeling feels deeply remains in our mind or heart. Of course, Jesus doesn't want us to throw trees into the sea. Jesus wants us to forgive others by faith in him. Forgiving others does not require a lot increased faith. Faith just as small as a mustard seed, that what we need. Jesus wants us to obey his teaching without calculation and experience God's power of forgiveness.
To close almost three chapters of teaching, Jesus told a short parable in verses 7-10.
To get to the gist, the parable shows that we should have the attitude of unworthy servants. What is the attitude of unworthy servants? Even though after we work hard, we say to ourselves, “I have only done my duty.” Without this attitude, there is a problem with expecting some kind of reward or praise or blessing. We become unthankful and proud. Then we get grumpy and self-righteous and lose our joy and eager zeal to serve our Lord. We start drawing lines and setting limits on our service. “Gosh, nobody recognizes my great work.” Then we lose power to keep up the good work for God’s glory. Jesus said this is not the right way of thinking. This is not the right attitude of a servant of God. Rather, “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.’”
When I prepare Sunday worship service message, I also have the attitude of unworthy servant. If I have expectation of human reward such as money for the message or human recognition from JBF members, I would be miserable or unhappy and could not continue to do God’s work. It’s because I do not receive any money for my service and any recognition from JBF members. However, if even there is no human reward, I will be doing my service for God’s glory because I am a unworthy servant and I am doing my duty. Likewise we all JBF members should have the attitude of unworthy servants when we take part in God’s ministry. Paul, one who served God with the attitude of an unworthy servant, says, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle...But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” (1Cor 15:9-10) Let us pray that we may be an unworthy servant who seeks God's recognition rather than human ones. We may hear God say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” being humble and thankful, and working hard for the Lord's honor and recognition.
Today we learn that we must be careful not to be a bad influence toward others, that we must rebuke our brothers with Jesus’ heart and that we must forgive our brothers if they repent. Most of all, after we obey all of them by faith and with our whole heart, we must say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” Let us pray that we may have the attitude of unworthy servants from today forever, remembering God’s abundant grace and love toward ourselves.
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