“The Parable of the Servant’s Reward: An Interpretation and Explanation,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
In the Parable known as the Parable of the Servant’s Reward, found in Luke 17:7-10, Jesus asks of us who of you who have a servant plowing or keeping sheep will say to him when he comes in from the field “Come in at once and sit down at the table”…”Will he not rather say to him, Prepare supper for me and gird yourself and serve me until I eat and drink and afterward you shall eat and drink.”
The question is asked does he thank the servant because he did what he was commanded. Jesus ends this parable with a statement, “So you also when you have done all that is commanded of you say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
This Parable is somewhat difficult to completely understand. It is somewhat difficult to grasp that the person who has a servant who is planning on keeping sheep should not sit down at the table with the servant which would be the better moral action. The servant’s proper role, however, we are told, is to serve the master; prepare his supper; and then the servant can eat and drink. Jesus says here that when the master has a slave or servant who comes in from the fields, it is more likely that the master will command the servant to serve him and then the servant can eat. Jesus emphasizes that the master will not invite the servant to eat with him. Jesus says that once the servant has done what he is told he does not deserve thanks since that is his duty and role. Jesus concludes even when we have done what is commanded of us by god and Christ in our lives, we have only done what we have been told to do and what was our duty.
Jesus concludes here that whatever we do and whatever good works we do out of command and obedience to god, we remain unworthy and have done nothing to merit god’s grace and love. The ultimate lesson here is that god is the one who gives us his love and grace and compassion and mercy, not because of anything we we have done in our lives that has made us in any way worthy and not because of who we are or have done, but because it is god who has first loved us. We remain unworthy of his love which nevertheless is freely and constantly given.
This essay is taken with alterations and modifications from my book entitled “The Parables of Jesus: A Personal Commentary, pub. by Hamilton books, 2018 pp. 101 and 102.