Lk 17 Unprofitable Servant



7″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’? 8Would 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’? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So 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 XVII. 7-10.)


No man can do more than his duty to the Lord. For, as soon as it is clear to him, that it lies in his power wisely to do certain good uses, it becomes his duty to do them. For it is always a man’s duty to do all the good that lies in his power, in keeping the Lord’s commandments.


In the literal sense, the meaning is clear. As a servant, in performing his usual duty, does not place his master under special obligation; so men, the servants of the Lord, cannot claim any merit for their service. In the text, the servant was a bond-servant, whose relation to his master was much less independent than that of a servant in our day, in our country.


We have two minds, or two parts of our mind, the natural and the spiritual. And the relation of master and servant exists between our spiritual and internal mind, and our natural or external mind. The servant is the natural mind, or natural man, which learns truth, and does good as of itself, but from the indwelling spirit, and according to the desires and commands of the spirit.


The servant is said to be “plowing, or feeding cattle,” or, literally “feeding the flock,” meaning sheep. The servant plows the ground, to prepare it to receive the seed, and to bring forth the crop. So, a man spiritually plows, when he prepares his mind to receive the seed of Divine truth, that the seed may produce a crop, in the deeds of his daily life. Plowing the ground especially refers to the preparation of the understanding for the intelligent reception of Divine truths from the Lord’s Word.


And feeding the flock of sheep, refers to the cultivation of the will, or heart, Sheep correspond to charity, or love to the neighbor. And feeding the sheep, or taking care of them, represents cultivating charity. Both the culture of the understanding, and of the will, are good uses, of a high order, requiring sincerity, industry, and obedience to the commands of the Divine Master.


And yet these uses are performed by the servant, the natural mind, as of itself, yet actually from the influence of the inward, spiritual mind, We must compel ourselves to heed the teachings of the Lord’s Word, and to learn these teachings, as precepts and doctrines ; and we must make an effort to break up our old natural conditions of thought and feeling, in order that we may be in a state to receive the new truths which the Lord reveals to us.

And we must determinedly resist our wrong feeling’s, and try to feel as the Lord teaches us to feel, towards Him, and towards our fellow-men. And the work of thus plowing, or preparing our minds, and of feeding, the sheep, or cultivating our good affections, is our dally labor, as servants of our Lord. And our natural minds must do this work, in their way, on their plane, as servants of our spiritual minds.


For instance: we are not to indulge our anger, simply because we are so inclined, but we are to resist the inclination, because the Lord teaches us that anger is evil. And we are not to expect that our inward, spiritual mind will lift us out of all tendencies towards anger; but we are to resist the natural desire and tendency when, and whenever, they arise; and our inward, spiritual minds will exert their influence, in giving us light to see our duty, and In supporting our efforts to do our duty. So, the master does not do the servant’s work, but he commands the servant, directs him, and supports him.


And the parable refers to this relation between our external, or natural, mind, and our internal, or spiritual, mind. The spiritual mind; or spiritual part of the mind enlightens, directs, commands, and supports, the natural mind, or natural part of the mind. And the natural mind, as of itself, receives and obeys the commands of the spiritual mind. This is the orderly and heavenly relation. In the regenerate condition; and, in this state both the spiritual mind and the natural mind are filled with happiness, each in its own degree.

But, when this heavenly relation is interrupted, the whole man is brought into disorder, and into unhappiness. For the natural mind cannot see clearly, and act wisely, without the influence of the spiritual mind ; and, without the practical activity of the natural mind, the spiritual mind cannot have its outward uses performed. The servant and the master must depend upon each other.


The servant is said to come in from the field. The field is the natural life, where the actual work is done, where truth is learned, and good affections are developed. We have alternations of state, sometimes working, and sometimes resting. The rest, after work, represents the mental rest of peace and delight, after the labor of learning and cultivating good principles. We labor in resisting our evil tendencies, and in compelling ourselves to do good. And we rest when our spiritual mind gains control over our natural mind.


To eat food, and to drink, mean mentally to eat; to receive, and accept as our own, the good and true principles of the Lord’s Word. These are our spiritual food. As the Lord said, “My meat and drink is to do the will

of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.” To sit down, being a somewhat fixed position, means to fix the will upon what we are doing. To sit down and eat, is to fix our will upon the good and true principles which come to us from our Lord, and to appropriate these principles; to make them our principles of life. And, in this reception of spiritual food, there is delightful spiritual rest.


But the natural mind cannot enter into this rest, nor be filled with spiritual food, until, through its service, the spiritual mind has first been filled. And so the servant serves his master, and, afterwards, sits down to his own supper. Thus the master says, “Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken and, afterward, thou shalt eat and drink.”


To make ready, is to have the natural mind do its preparatory work of learning the doctrines of the Church, and of resisting evil inclinations, and of keeping the Lord’s commandments. When the natural mind, as a servant, does these things, it prepares the supper for the Master, the spiritual mind, Thus it opens the door, that the Lord may come in, and sup with the spiritual mind, and that the spiritual mind may sup with Him. The man must have the knowledges of truth before he can apply them. Conjunction with the Lord is by knowledge of truth, love of truth, and a life of truth. And the man must make ready to receive the Lord, by casting out the things that oppose the Lord.


To gird one’s self, is to gather up the long skirt of the robe, and to hold it up by the girdle, or belt; thus leaving the feet free for moving about. Garments represent knowledges, truths known. These are spiritually girded up, lifted up from the feet, when, from love, the man elevates his mind, lifting up these truths to see them in their higher phases, in connection with spiritual things. Thus the natural mind, as the servant, girds himself and serves the spiritual mind, as the master, until the master has eaten and drunken; i, e., until, by the practice of good principles, as Divine truths, the inward spirit is brought into conjunction with heaven and the Lord.


The Divine principles are fixed, confirmed, in the spiritual mind, by being sincerely done in the natural mind and life; and then the Divine influences can flow through the spiritual mind, and fill the natural mind, also. Then both the servant and the master can feed upon spiritual food and drink.

But, if the natural mind attempts to satisfy itself, first, and in its own worldly way, before serving the spiritual mind, it will not elevate itself to heavenly phases of truth; but it will see and receive worldly, natural things, only. Then it will fall into disorder and error. Thus, it can serve itself best, by serving the spiritual mind first; for it must serve the Lord, in the light, and by the guidance, of the spirit. “Seek ye first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these [external] things shall be added unto you.”

Throughout human history, all departures from good, and from spirituality of character, have arisen from the attempt of the natural mind to serve itself first. This was the “fall of man,” as figuratively portrayed in the departure from Eden, under the advice of the subtle serpent, the natural senses, in the low and grovelling form of life. No man can reach heaven from the senses, without the direction of an enlightened spirit; for no man can receive and appropriate the good that is in any truth, in his natural mind until after he has interiorly acknowledged it to be the Lord’ s truth, and until he has loved it, and done it, as the Lord’s.


The internal, the spirit, must first be brought into regenerate order; and only when the spiritual mind acts from regenerate affections, can the natural mind give up its self-will, and act from heavenly motives, guided by the spirit, Heaven comes to men inwardly. “’The kingdom of God is within you.” And the natural mind and life are filled with regenerate life, through the spiritual mind. The servant must first serve his master, and, afterwards, he may eat and drink. The natural mind is nourished and filled with heavenly life, in the degree in which it serves the spiritual mind, The spiritual mind looks to the spiritual world, and the natural mind looks to the natural world. And so, what a man does, in the natural mind and life, from the regenerate spiritual mind, he does from heaven, and from the Lord. But what he does from his natural mind, alone, he does from himself.


But, when the natural mind serves the spiritual mind, the spiritual mind is not under any obligation to the natural mind ; for the latter cannot attain its own best condition, except through what it does for the spirit. ” Doth he thank that servant, because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.” That is, the master does not feel under any special obligation to the servant. It is the law of heavenly order, for the external to serve the internal, the body to serve the mind, the natural mind to serve the spirit. So, in the physical body, the outward skin serves the heart and lungs, which are internal; and the skin finds its own happiness, and maintains its own order, only in so far as it serves the vital organs.


“So, likewise, ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, we are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” That is, we produce no extra profit for the Lord, beyond our ordinary duty. And, in serving the Lord, we find our own life. Men have nothing of which they should boast. They can do no more than their duty. And they must depend upon the Lord to give them light to see their duty, and strength to do it.

All merit is in the Lord, and not any in man. No man can do any real good, except in the name of the Lord. Men are merely recipients of the Divine Life, each in his degree, as to quality and quantity. And the most any man can do, is to prepare himself to serve the Lord) and to find his happiness in keeping the Lord’s commandments. There is no merit in a man’s keeping the laws which it is his best interest to keep.

But the unregenerate natural man ascribes merit to himself. And yet, “A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” See the little brook, gradually swelling to the proportions of a majestic river, and carrying a flood of waters to the sea. But does the river imagine that it is doing great favors to the sea? Whence came the waters of the river? From the sea, by evaporation, and clouds, and the rain. And well may the mighty ocean say to the flowing river, “Without me, ye can do nothing.” And, through the whole universe, there is a circulation of life from the Lord, going out into all things, filling and moving each according to its organization; performing uses, blessing all, and returning to the Lord, through the thankful hearts and lives of regenerate men.


The parable teaches us a lesson of humility. And its truths are very unwelcome to him who lives for praise. All that we can do is only our duty. And where are the men who have done all that they could have done, in every thing? And, if we could find any such, they would be the very ones who would not claim any merit for themselves. The old idea that the Church on earth is a communion of saints is all wrong; it is a land of fellow-sinners, confessing their evils, and looking to the Lord for help.


It is a beautiful order of life, in man, when his spiritual, internal mind has full government over his obedient natural mind ; when all his life as an animal is under the control of his life as a regenerate spirit. In this blessed condition, his animal nature is not destroyed, but refined and humanized, Its delights are still permitted, but they are made rational and pure.

The condition of man , half human, half beast, was well represented in ancient symbolic mythology, by the sphynx, the centaur, and the satyr, half human, but also half lioness, or half horse, or half goat. But, in each case, the human side was above, uppermost, and the anima l side below. The body, or part of it, was, in each case, a beast, but the head, which directed it, was human. And how true to nature are these representations. In human nature we find aspiring intelligence, and refined affections, coupled with the grossness of a beast. Do we not recognize the likeness, in our own hereditary nature? And blessed be the Lord, that He shows us how to tame the beast, and helps us to rise above it.

You say it is hard to rise beyond the beast’s low influence. Yes; it is always hard for the hells to submit to the heavens. And our unregenerate natural mind is infernal. And the more strongly the lower nature holds us, the harder it is for us to break away. But we have the perfect example of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in His assumed humanity, And what He did, as a man on earth, He gives us light and strength to accomplish, in our degree. Generations of indulgence have unduly developed the strength of our animal nature.


Imagine yourself walking along a road, and suddenly seeing a beautiful child, held in the clutches of a demon. Horror would stir your heart to instant and great exertion, to destroy the horrid demon, and to rescue the imperilled child. But, do we not now see this terrible spectacle? Is it not, in some measure, the case with us all? Is there not, in each of us, the Lord’s child of the soul, held in the strong grasp of the demon of our self-love? And is not that lovely child in imminent peril? Do not our hereditary inclinations hold us in their grasp, like the folds of the serpent about the body of Laocoon? But for the countless and constant mercies of Infinite Love, our spiritual life would be crushed and destroyed.


Indeed, how hard we try, in our clays of folly, to give full control to the natural mind, and to forget that heavenly order, and truly human life, are in the submission of the external to the internal, the natural to the spiritual, the servant to the master. How tired we grow, in the work of serving the Master first; and how tired we are, in waiting for the time when the natural mind can sit down to its own meat. And, indeed, how little we recognize the help we could give to each other, towards corning into the heavenly order, if we would only act more from a regenerating spirit, and less from our envious natural feelings.


Every human being, man, woman, or child, no matter what his or her condition, ought to be intensely interesting to us. In every person, we should see but a human soul, struggling in the grasp of a demon. And we should throw our influence, our affection, and our help, on the side of the human part, and against the demon. But, how little we meet each other on this plane. The peculiarities, the looks, the clothing, all the externals of others, take up too much of our attention. We may see, in another, only the brutal side, while, within all that, there is a little babe of regenerate life, just awaking to the beginnings of conscious existence. And each one of us has it in his power to do something towards the development, or the discouragement, of that struggling heavenly babe.


Would that we had the manly courage always to work for spiritual ends, even in the externals of our life. The great trouble with most men, to-day, is that they do not elevate their minds, to see things in spiritual light; but are in the habit of regarding everything, even religion, in a crude external way, and from the senses; But every external thing should be associated with its inward life. We should value the external because of its connection with its internal.


For instance: what draws your heart and your thought towards a dear little child who has gone before you to the heavens, more than his little shoe, carrying in its familiar outlines, the form of the little foot that once filled it? And yet, of all the things associated with the form of your dear little child, his shoe is the most external, and it belonged to the lowest and least important part of his body.

But, when the empty shoe lies before your memory and affection seem to bring back the whole form of the loved one, to take his place. The little foot seems to return to the empty shoe; and, with the foot, comes the entire form. And, in fact, what is the bodily form, but the external of the real child, the soul, that you love? During the life of your little boy, on earth, how carefully and tenderly you provided proper shoes for his little feet, that they might not cause him pain. And did you not as carefully, and as tenderly, try to lead him into such externals of feeling, thought and conduct, as would properly serve his opening spirit, without injury to its growing life? Did you not remember that all things that this outward world can afford your child, are, to his human spirit, only what the shoes are to the feet that fill them? They are externals, but important, as serving, or restraining, the growing spirit, within.

Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887