READ: Psalm 89, Amos 1, Luke 17, 2 Corinthians 8

UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS

Why do we think God should thank us? Jesus puts it almost sarcastically: “Does He thank that servant? . . . I think not” (Luke 17:9)! God says neither “please” nor “thank you.” Thanks is the response of the inferior to his Sovereign or the peer to her equal; it is not appropriate for God to give thanks to any person.

Jesus reminds us, “When you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'” (v. 10). The Church makes a grave error when it lauds the obedience of the missionary over the faithfulness of the common layperson. Thanks is misplaced when it is given from one person to another regarding our duty to God. When God’s people laud each other for “crossing land and sea to make one convert,” they not only misunderstand Christian obedience (precious regardless of geography), they also propel the thanked to folly. If a person is thanked often enough by others, he begins to demand etiquette from God, and God refuses to be reduced to the civilities of His servants. God refuses to thank a person for what she has been commanded to do.

Rather than thanking us, Jesus invites us to share in His reproach. Our deep insecurity compels us to seek praise, while Jesus’ complete security empowers us to open ourselves to scorn. We dread the reproach of men (Psalm 119:39), and that is the reason why so many Muslims who have trusted in Christ have done so with a dream or vision as part of their journey. For a Muslim to follow Jesus, he or she must endure unimaginable cost. Loss of family, loss of employment, loss of shelter, loss of esteem, loss of children, loss of nationality, loss of life–these are not uncommon. Dreams and visions are more usual in the salvation journey of Muslims than signs and wonders are. Muslims know God is all-powerful–they have no problem believing that God can do anything–but Muslims are not prepared to carry shame. Shame cultures need reassurance that they will not walk through reproach alone. Many Muslims have come right to the brink of redemption and hesitated, for they cannot bear the thought of the shame and reproach about to assail them, unprotected by the community. When Jesus appears to Muslims in visions, He assures them of His presence, not His power. Jesus tells the seeker on the brink of unbearable scorn: “When you walk through the fire and flame . . . fear not, for I am with you.” We may be unprofitable, but we are not unloved and we are not alone.

God does not thank–He rewards. When we obey, which is simply our duty and nothing to be commended for, Jesus rewards us, inviting us into His reproach. Human wisdom seeks commendation; the beautiful lowliness of God embraces reproach.

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