So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ (Luke 17:10 ESV)
Think of all the ways the Bible describes Christians. We are collectively the bride of Christ. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit. We are children of God. We are heirs with Christ. We are fiends with Christ and with God. All of these descriptions speak of the lofty position Christians have by virtue of their relationship with Christ.
Furthermore, the Bible often talks about our heavenly reward. We are to lay up our treasures in heaven. We are exhorted to build on the foundation of Christ with gold, silver and precious stones and receive a reward for our labors. Preachers often talk about doing good work here on earth to receive a reward on the day of reckoning.
All of these things are true. However, we must balance all of this by keeping in mind that the Christian faith is all of grace! All of the lofty descriptions of believers and all the biblical talk about heavenly reward are based on one thing and one thing only: Our relationship with Christ! We receive nothing except for the sake of Christ. We earn nothing except for the sake of Christ. All of our good work done for the sake of Christ falls woefully short of God’s standard of perfection because all of our works done in the flesh are tainted with sin. Yet, for the sake of Christ, God receives them gladly and rewards us for them.
Despite all of those grand terms that describe Christians, the reality is that we are unworthy servants. When it is all said and done, whatever we did for God is simply our duty — it is what is owed him. He is the Creator and we are the creature. We were made for his glory, not he for ours. We owe him our very being. We are unworthy servants. There is no one, not even the most holiest of men, that when all is said and done will put God in his debt. A servant owes his obedience to his master without the expectation of reward.
The Apostle Paul, in many of his letters, refers to himself as a “bondservant” of Christ (δουλος), literally a “slave.” This is not a flattering term, nor is it meant to be, but it speaks of a great reality in the Christian life — we are slaves to Christ. We were rescued by Christ from our slavery and bondage to sin to be his slaves. We have a new Master, the Lord Jesus Christ! While it is true that Paul in Galatians speaks about our freedom in Christ, and Jesus in John’s gospel says that if the Son sets you free, you’re free indeed. However, this freedom isn’t to be understood as being free to do whatever we wish (human autonomy), but rather the freedom to be as God created us to be: Servants of God! And how good it is to serve God. Despite the fact that we are unworthy servants, God graciously chooses to reward our feeble efforts of service with grace beyond measure!
Soli Deo Gloria!