“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
Do you remember when you were a child? Your mom and dad were so proud of you when you learned to tie your shoes or ride a bike. Your teachers were ecstatic when you first learned your alphabet. It was a time when people gave you so much praise when you learned or mastered something new.
Now, fast forward to adulthood. You are a hardworking tax paying citizen who loves their family, does their job well, and maybe you even serve on a community board of some sort. By all accounts you are doing well in life and you are being a good and upstanding citizen. But something is different. You don’t get the same praise and accolades that you got as a child. Nobody is commending or congratulating you for paying your taxes, or for doing the job that you were hired to do. Why?
Because you are an adult who is doing exactly what everyone expects of you. In this way you don’t necessarily deserve praise for doing what you are supposed to be doing. This is the same point that Jesus is making about being his servant.
We have graciously and mercifully been called by Jesus to be his people. And in calling us, he has also given us a job to do. Our job is to follow him as our Lord and Master and do what he says so that he will be glorified and his kingdom will grow. And when we follow him as his servant we are only doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing.
So now you might be thinking, “but isn’t it good and right to be congratulated or commended when you do a good job?” And I would say in an earthly sense yes, but in a heavenly sense no. Obviously in our everyday life, when we do well, there are those who are appreciative and may thank us for a job well done. But even those times are few and far between as adults.
But in a heavenly or eternal sense, we need to realize that we are serving the Almighty God. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He deserves infinitely more than what is simply required of us. In this way, our service to him will always fall short of his infinite glory and worth, even when we are doing what we are supposed to. Our response then should be continual humility as we realize that we are only able to serve God in an imperfect way that is so far below what he deserves.
So why do we need this reminder? Because we are so prone to pride.
We often think that we deserve accolades, promotions, and congratulations for what we have done and are doing. You go to work and think you deserve more recognition. You are a good spouse and you think you deserve more appreciation from your husband or wife. You keep your lawn looking nice and you think the other neighbors should let you know how great your house looks. You serve in your local church or even the local soup kitchen and you think people should recognize how you are serving Jesus so well. The list could go on and on.
But the truth is this: when we think this way we are being exactly like the Pharisees. We think that we deserve accolades and glory for what we have done, when in reality we have barely done what God has asked of us. We have served the perfect one imperfectly, and any credit or glory that we get for what we have done should be his alone.
So our response to God, as his servants should be to remember that we are unworthy to be his servants. To remember that we are unable to serve him in ways that match his infinite perfection. And to live humbly before him thanking him that he would even call imperfect servants like us to be his people in the first place.
Then and only then will he say to us on that day, “well done, good and faithful servants.”