You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. - Woodrow T. Wilson (1856-1924) Twenty-eighth President of the USA.
Gospel Text: (LK 17:7-10)
Jesus said to the Apostles:
“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’?
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’?
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded?
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded, say,
‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
Doesn't this gospel passage just rub you the wrong way? It violates our American value system. This is not the way to treat workers. When someone has worked faithfully and hard, they should be given a nice bonus, or a promotion, or a letter of commendation to be placed in their personnel file, or at the very least a pat on the back and compliment for a job well done. After all, the servant in this gospel has been working hard in the field since before dawn, plowing, tending the sheep, and numerous other chores. This has been a long day of back-breaking work in the hot sun.
We would think the master would have the table set with a delicious hot meal at the end of a hard days work for the servant and would say something like "take a seat while I serve you." – Wrong
The master does greet the returning worker, but it's with an apron and the words: "get to work; can't you see I'm hungry." Not a single word of praise or appreciation.
What Jesus is telling us today is that we can never put God in our debt; we can never have any claim on him. When we have done our best, we have only done what we are supposed to do. We serve the Lord because this is what it means to follow him as a disciple.
There's work to be done, urgent human needs to be met. And there is no time for applause.