Vol.III No.VIII Pg.3
September 1966

Doing Which Earns Nothing

Robert F. Turner

"But which of you, having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat?. And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup; and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?. Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.

So likewise ye, when ye 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" (LUK.17:7-10).

This lesson from our Lord is plain talk -- calling us what we are -- bondservants, or slaves. It is not a popular lesson, but apparently this did not bother the Lord.

The slave of Jesus' time belonged to his master. Without sanctioning cruelty, Jesus points up what his disciples knew to be appropriate, right. This was the proper relation between master and slave -- the kind of service the slave himself expected to render. The slave's humility is not feigned, "eyeservice" (COL.3:22). But the only attitude consistent with his actual position. The master would be less than a master if he acted in any other way.

We need to forget sociological philosophy long enough to realize those who serve God must become bondservants (slaves) to Him. "Ye are not your own -- ye are bought with a price" (1CO.6:19-20, 7:23; ROM.12:1).

Here is the teaching that puts us in our place. It answers questions from "justification" to "how much must I give?". It separates the truly dedicated Christian from the fake. The "faith only" man seems to consider all who stress the necessity of obedience as "denying salvation by grace". To him, if one has to do anything, this is "earning" salvation -- making it a debt that must be paid. He confuses the system of law, seen in Judaism (ROM.3:20; GAL.3:10-f) with "obedience to the faith" (ROM.1:5). Yet, in our Lord's lesson, a man who worked, and worked, and worked; did that which was his duty to do, and was due no special thanks. Jesus taught a necessary obedience that is not meritorious.

On the other hand, there are some who seem to feel service to God can be measured by frequency of worship, accuracy in compliance, or percentage of income given. Many of these make commendable sacrifices, but the spirit is wrong.

"What percent should I give?" is like asking "How often should I obey?" or "To what extent should I love?" We first must give ourselves (2CO.8:5). To be concrete, give 100% of your income to the Lord. It is all His. Then He allows you to use a portion for daily needs, and for capital to make more for Him. You use it, as a faithful steward; but it is all His.

Remember -- when we have done all things commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants" What can you say who have ignored his commandments?