Thankful is as Thankful Does
Reading: Luke 17, 18
“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” –Luke 17:10, NIV.
A number of years ago this verse came up in a Bible study I was doing with a group of ladies. I got a surprising reaction from one of them. She took serious exception to the word “unworthy,” declaring that all that she was doing “for the Lord” made her very worthy–in God’s sight and in the sight of everyone who should be admiring her dedication. Not too much farther over in Luke Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the publican who came to pray in the temple. The Pharisee was full of himself, and went away without God’s forgiveness. The publican recognized his unworthiness and went away rejoicing and at peace with God. Jesus said: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:14, NIV).
Unhappily, the gal in my Bible study never did learn that lesson.
It’s not that it’s such an easy lesson to learn either. Pride clouds our vision, making us believe that somehow we’ve paid God back for all His blessings and we can now sit back and bask in His appreciation of how wonderful we are. It is true that someday those who are faithful to Him will hear that glorious voice say: “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:23, NIV). But we’re not there yet. Honesty demands that we recognize that we can never do enough to pay God back for all that He has done for us. The idea of “unworthy” simply reminds us that we don’t deserve all that God showers on us. We will be forever in His debt. But thanks to Jesus that debt is now paid in full for us–He’s the worthy One.
Today, when everything is all about feeling good about oneself, the idea of being “unworthy” doesn’t sit very well. But “unworthy” isn’t the same as feeling worthless. If we were worthless God would have walked away from us a along time ago. Instead, He sacrificed His Son in order to bring us back into relationship with Him. He provides for us. He embraces us. He works with us, and in us, to make us like Him. He never lets go of us even when we try to wiggle out of His hand or, worse yet, bite that hand through our disobedience and willfulness. No, we are worth a great deal to God.
And it is out of grateful hearts for what He has done that we love Him and serve Him. There is no question of repaying the debt. It is simply a question of expressing our thanks.