Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An Unprofitable Servant

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 17:10)

In each of the commentaries on this verse that I have consulted, there appears to be a common theme. We are "unprofitable" servants because even our best efforts are intermingled with error. We have no righteousness of our own. Everything that we have is due solely to God's working in us.

Now, I will not dispute the godly teachers of the past. Surely men such as John Gill and Matthew Henry spent many more hours in the Word of God than me. Yet, when I approach this passage, I must ask myself if this is just yet another passage speaking to the total depravity of man? Is it just one more reference that proves our inadequacy? Maybe. But what I read here is that a servant *has* successfully done his duty. Yet, he is still found lacking. He is described as "unprofitable."

Could it be that the servant is called unprofitable because he has done the bare minimum of his duty? Consider the following instruction of our Lord:

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
(Mat 5:40-41)

In this passage, wouldn't the "duty" described be the bare minimum? Duty would dictate that you give up the coat that has been judged against you. But duty does not require the giving away of the cloke. Duty requires us to "go a mile." Yet going "twain" is above and beyond the call of duty.

I was listening to Geoff Botkin present a message from the 200 Year Plan Practicum. In it, he was relating the comparison of the army of Christ with an earthly military army. He was talking about ranks of privates, corporals, sergeants, captains, colonels, and generals. He stressed that being a private in Christ's army is not a bad thing. In an earthly military, we absolutely need the efforts of privates. There is honor in serving as a private. Yet, if the entire army is made up of privates, something is terribly wrong. There needs to be those who will rise above the ranks of private both in earthly armies, as well as Christ's army.

Mr. Botkin did not bring up the scripture from Luke 17:10, but I could not help but think of it while he was presenting. If all we ever do is just our bare minimum duty, which, by the way, includes daily Bible reading, prayer, homeschooling, family worship, and releasing control of the womb to the Lord, then we will never rise in the ranks to the officer status that the Lord needs in His army. The duties I mentioned above are vital. Sadly many Christians do not even strive to maintain these "minimum" standards. Indeed, observing someone doing these things is most often a rarity in today's depraved times in which we live. Yet, I agree with Mr. Botkin, that greater efforts need to be done. Bravery in the midst of battle should be apparent. God is calling men to be leaders who can make quick, wise decisions while engulfed in the thick of the battle.

If a young man comes desiring to court our daughters, and all he can claim is that he consistently reads his Bible, prays, desires to homeschool, desires to lead in family worship, and believes in having many children for the glory of God, is that really "enough" qualification to release our daughters into his care? If you have set yourself on having your daughters marry a "private" in Christ's army, then maybe it is "good enough." Yet, for those of us who desire leadership qualities, for those who have a clear vision and passion for the next 200 years, we will not hand our daughters over to someone who is an unprofitable servant that has simply done what was their duty to do.

Men, this is a challenge to you. This is a challenge to me. The answer is not to simply hold off in giving away our daughters until an officer in Christ's army comes to court. The answer is also that we must rise in the ranks ourselves, and we must raise sons who do likewise. In listening to Mr. Botkin's message, I realized that what he is describing is a range of ranks. In my own self assessment, I feel that I am above the rank of private. Yet, that same self assessment shows me that I have much, much further to go before advancing to the ranks of the upper leadership. And yet, that is my desire. I can think of no other purpose in living than in living a life that is constantly desiring the deeper, greater things of God. I take seriously our Lord's great commission:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
(Mat 28:19-20)

So, if we see that being unprofitable is simply doing our duty, what things in scripture are described as "profitable?"

This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
(Tit 3:8)

Hmm... Are good works "profitable?" The scripture declares that they are profitable. But they are profitable unto men. It's a good thing to do things that are profitable unto men. The Lord has told us that we are to treat one another with kindness. Yet, my greater desire is to be profitable unto God.

For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
(1Ti 4:8)

Godliness is profitable unto all things. True godliness cannot be faked. Godliness is not simply a matter of performing a check list of duties that bring us to a rank of private in Christ's army. I submit to you that godliness is the trait that God is looking for in His officers. This is not something we drum up within ourselves. It is God who imparts it. Yet, we are responsible to be willing vessels. We cannot hope to walk in godliness while harboring habitual sin. We all fail. But what does our heart look like after we fail? David was king. He certainly failed on more than one occasion. But when he did, his heart was sincerely grieved that He had sinned against His Lord. His repentance was deep and meaningful. And we are told that David was a man after God's own heart.


The Schaubing Blogk said...

I liked this quote:

...our bare minimum duty, which, ... includes daily Bible reading, prayer, homeschooling, family worship, and releasing control of the womb to the Lord,

SciFi Jackie said...

would you mind clarifying your reasoning behind "releasing control of the womb to the Lord"? are you decrying condoms and other protective measures? i look forward to your response.
Godbless and Godspeed,

Mike Southerland said...

Jackie, I authored this article almost ten years ago. As I read through it again, it seems to me now, haughty, and somewhat legalistic. Ten years ago I was involved with Vision Forum and followed many of the speakers associated with them. Looking back on my life, I believe that God used that time period to cement some of the needed convictions for leading a family in this hostile age. This was a time when I had only recently come out of the charismatic movement and began to embrace the "Doctrines of Grace." If you've ever heard of a "cage stage" Calvinist, that would have suited me. I was disillusioned with all the glitter and nonsense I had recently left in the charismatic church. And here was this conservative group, speaking quite opposite from the travesty I had left. I was drawn to it. That's a bit of the history, but the question you asked was specifically in regard to birth control.

The position I now hold on that topic is this. All forms of chemical birth control are either designed to, or through an unintended consequence, can cause an early abortion. I can not, in good conscience, either use chemical birth control in my marriage, nor endorse its use in others' marriages. This is consistent with my pro-life stance. I truly believe that an unborn child is created at the moment of conception. Therefore, anything that kills that child is sinful. For barrier methods of birth control, I have relaxed my judgmental attitude toward others who use them. No harm will befall a child through their use. However, in my marriage, we still do not opt for these methods either. My wife and I are now 49 years old. God has blessed us with nine beautiful children, and three beautiful grand-children. It is unlikely, though not impossible, that we will conceive any additional children.

Thank you for your question. If you keep reading some of my old articles, take them with a grain of salt. I can't remember everything I may have put there. But I'd like to think I am a more mature believer now than I was back then.