27th-C Sun Ordinary Time
Hab 1:2-3, 2:2-4; Ps 95; 2Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10
“I am an unprofitable servant. I have done what I was obliged to do.” This is one of those ‘nuggets of advice’ that I think, would be best kept in the ‘depths of our hearts.’ In other words, I wouldn’t go running into my boss’ office on Monday morning proclaiming that revelation, “I am an unprofitable servant,” especially in today’s economy, unless we really don’t want to keep those jobs.
So why do you think Jesus would give a parable about minimalizing our worth? Wasn’t it Jesus who told us “to go that extra mile,” “to give – even our coat, if all they asked for was our shirt?” And shouldn’t we rightfully expect that promotion if we did go that extra mile?
Well that might be true in the “world’s system” of weights and measures. But you know, personally, I’d be very careful with expectations from that system. Sometimes we just set ourselves up for disappointment. You see, the world isn’t always fair.
But in God’s system it’s a little different. If we go that extra mile, not for the sole purpose of the reward it will bring us, but instead, for the benefit of others, BECAUSE of our Love FOR them and for God, then there is NO question about God’s justice. We WILL be rewarded in the long run.
Jesus told the parable of the ‘unprofitable servant’ in response to what He saw as a clear misunderstanding on the part of the apostles. You see, the point of the parable was NOT about their faith, but about their attitude behind that faith. When taken with humility, a teeny, tiny bit of faith will go a whole lot farther than a mountain of faith on top of pride.
And the apostles, really struggled with that concept, as do we, because they and we live in a “world system” based on the ‘world’s creed’ that says, “What’s in it for me?” And Jesus just handed the apostles a laundry basket full of do’s and don’ts that pressed that “world creed” even closer to the forefront of their thoughts.
He said things like: “You can’t serve both God and money.” And they thought, “Then how do we eat?” He said: “You can’t shortcut or excuse away God’s laws, such as the permanency of marriage vows.” And they thought, “Then how will we ever survive all those years with these grumpy old husbands or these nagging wives?” He said: “You must always forgive a person who repents in sorrow for their actions.” And they thought, “Sure when pigs fly!” And He said: “You must never neglect the poor and the needy.” And after their final thoughts of, “What’s in it for me?” and “There’s no way we can do all that stuff,” the apostles pleaded with Jesus, saying, “Lord, increase our faith!”
But Jesus said, ‘No, instead of adding more faith to your pride, you need to add a little humility to your faith. Take that pride down, just a notch. Trust in God. And don’t do it for the reward, but do it because it is the “minimum expected” from a “Child of God,” of whom You are one. And then, follow ‘God’s Creed’ instead of the world’s. Instead of “What’s in it for me?” say “What’s in it for God?”’
And yet, the skeptic in us might still ask, “How do I know that God’s Creed will work any better than the world’s?” . . . I’ve had those unanswered prayers. I’ve loved, with no love in return. I’ve been mugged and robbed by those same ‘poor people’ we’re supposed to serve. So where’s the reward?”
Well, if you’ve ever spoken with someone who’s gone on a “mission trip,” be it to Haiti, or Appalachia, or even to the poor in Columbia, Missouri, the first thing they’ll say to you, is how great it made them feel to help others.
You see, they didn’t get paid for that work. As a matter of fact, that trip most likely cost them. It cost money for travel. They would have had to use their precious vacation time. There were no showers, and they had to live with big, tropical bugs. There were smells that would make them vomit, sights that would haunt them in nightmares, and sore muscles for weeks.
But you see, none of that really mattered, because the reward was SO, very much Greater. The smiling faces, the relieved looks, the satisfied hunger, the mended wounds, the grateful mother, the nurtured orphan, Jesus working through them and Jesus returning, back, out of that pain and into His “unprofitable servants,” in an endless stream of Love and Life.
You see, the reward is already IN you! Jesus planted it there. He feeds it with His Word and His Body, right here every Sunday. And when we’re full, He says, “Go children, in my peace, and together WE can feed a world, so precious in my sight.”