Not Home Yet

This becomes almost a follow-up to Monday’s post in which I expressed my hope that a long-time servant of the Lord would be well-treated when she retires from her overseas assignment.

In Luke 17 we get a glimpse of how a servant should feel about the whole matter of recompense for that service. It is one thing to be rewarded for faithfulness and another thing to expect to be rewarded for faithfulness.

Jesus told the following parable to His disciples:

Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 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 17:7-10).

I remember quoting these verses in a Bible study while I was serving in Venezuela. One of the ladies took extreme exception to Jesus’ last statement about “unworthy servants.” It turned out that she was the kind of person who craved attention, who basked in being admired and congratulated for everything she did—even those things she did within the church community. She did not consider herself “unworthy.”

Certainly, the example is a rather extreme one. But let’s face it, we all have within us the need to be recognized for the service we render. Sometimes a “thank you” is sufficient, sometimes we expect more. The point of the parable is that even a “thank you” is not to be expected. It’s absence, or that of any other kind of recognition for the service we offer in the name of the Lord, should not make us angry, resentful or hurt because we haven’t finished the job yet. The reward comes when the job is finished.

We have only done our duty. I said in my previous post that I hoped that my missionary friend would be received with honour. It’s the right thing to do from the perspective of the people who have blessed the nations through her faithful service over the last 40 years. But from her perspective, I pray that she will neither expect the accolades nor need them. I pray that she will be like the missionary in the following story.

A couple were returning by ship from a lifetime of missionary service overseas. When they got to the dock and were about to leave the ship, they noticed that there was a huge crowd gathered on the quay, along with a marching band. At first they thought that this was their welcome home after their many years of sacrifice and ministry. But then they realized that the crowd and the band had come to welcome some other person and they were left alone on the dock with no one to greet them. The wife leaned over to her husband and said: “Why isn’t there anyone here to welcome us home?” The husband replied, “That’s because we aren’t home yet.”

Someday the Lord will say to those who have done their duty here, “Well done, good and faithful servant!…Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 25:21) I hope my friend will be recognized for her service over all these years. But, I also hope she will maintain the heavenly perspective that says, “Nice, but not necessary, because I’m not finished my duties yet.” No, we’re not home yet. And until we are home, we do our duty with the absolute assurance that there awaits us a better welcome there than anyone could ever plan for us here.


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