Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 2, Lesson 6

Lesson Six

We Are Unprofitable Servants

Text: Luke 17:1-10

To suggest to any American that he or she is in any sense unworthy or unprofitable is taboo. This country, as no other nation, seeks to protect the individual's rights. While America is far from perfect in respecting the individual's rights, it attempts to respect individual rights. In America YOU DO NOT treat any citizen as unimportant. You never suggest a person is without worth. In America, a person has value just because he or she exists.

Americans address complex issues because we believe in the rights of the individual. How do you protect the rights of the unborn? How do you protect the rights of the criminal? How do you protect the rights of the victim? How do you protect the rights of a minority? How do you protect the rights of the elderly? How do you protect the rights of different religions? How do you protect the rights of the atheist and agnostic? At the heart of every significant American social issue is this question: what are the rights of that individual or that group of individuals?

Some of Jesus' teachings run counter to our society's popular concepts. The personal realities of a first century servant do not exist in the American society. The concept of a "good" servant is foreign to American thinking. The principle of humbly serving the best interest of others directly opposes the American concept of success.

In America, Jesus' teachings on the concept of self worth is a barrier to conversion. All our lives we have lived in a culture that urges every person to "protect your rights." We sue because of a cup of spilled coffee. We demand that the federal government protect each of us from every form of danger. Commonly, responsibility and blame are assigned to a group, an organization, or a corporation, but rarely to an individual. We are one of the few societies that declares its citizens have the right to act unlawfully.

'I" am everything. "I" am all important. "I" by right must be secure, cared for, and happy. "I" have the right to pleasure. "I" have the right to protection--even from me, my choices, and my behavior! "I" am not responsible or accountable. "You" have no right to demand too much of me. "I" do not exist to seek the best interests of others. "I" live and act for my best interest. Unselfishness, compassion, and seeking the highest good of others interferes with my rights.

Even a casual reading of the gospels reveals these perspectives oppose the life, actions, and teachings of Jesus. God's ideal servant never regarded himself to be too important to do anything God wanted. He never exalted himself. He lived and died for the benefit of others.

Luke 17:1-10

  1. Jesus said it was inevitable that his disciples would encounter stumbling blocks [temptations to sin]. What warning did Jesus also give (verse 1)?

  2. If a disciple had to choose between being a stumbling block [temptation to sin] who caused a lowly person to stumble [commit sin] or having a millstone tied to his neck and thrown into a lake, which should he choose (verse 2)?

    1. What is a millstone?

    2. If your neck is tied to a millstone, and that stone is thrown into the lake, what happens to you?

    3. What lesson should we learn about the seriousness of being the source of the temptation that causes a "little one" (a person who would struggle with the temptation) to stumble?

  3. How did Jesus stress the fact that every disciple must accept moral responsibility for himself or herself (verse 3)?

    1. If a fellow disciple sins [the context indicates against you], what is your responsibility?

    2. If he [or she] repents, what is your responsibility?

    3. If he [or she] sins against you seven times in a single day, and each time comes to you stating that he [or she] repents what are you to do?

    4. Why would you be willing to forgive this frequently?

    5. How many times a day do you think that God forgives you?

    6. How many times during a month do you think God forgives you of the same kind of mistake because you repeatedly stumble over the same temptation?

  4. How did the apostles respond to Jesus' instruction (verse 5)?

  5. If the apostles' faith was as large as a tiny mustard seed, what could they do (verse 6)? Remember the request they just made of Jesus. What would this indicate about the size of their faith? What comparison would you make between your faith and the apostles' faith?

  6. What would a master not say to his servant [slave] when the servant [slave] returned to the house after spending his day plowing a field or tending sheep (verse 7)?

  7. What would a master say to a servant [slave] who had just returned from a hard day's work (verse 8)?

    1. When would the servant [slave] eat?

    2. Would the master thank him for what he did (verse 9)? Why?

  8. If an apostle fulfilled every command from God exactly as God wanted each command obeyed, what should the apostle say (verse 10)? Why should he say, think, and feel that response?

It is impossible for a Christian to do more for God than he should do. It is impossible for a Christian to do as much for God as God has done for him. It is impossible for a Christian to do too much for God. The objective of the Christian is to serve God's will and purposes. Never is the Christian's objective to manipulate God into serving his or her will and purposes.

This is the wonderful thing about serving the will and purposes of God: it will always make us a better person. The more completely we serve God's will and purposes, the better servant we become. The result: we become better spouses, parents, neighbors, friends, and people.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 2, Lesson 6

Copyright © 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

previous lesson | table of contents | next lesson