(…continued) Of course, God invites us to come to him in prayer, but we must do so with all humility and submission, praying as Jesus himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Not my will, but thy will be done.” In prayer we ought to humbly make our requests, and then leave the answers to God’s infinitely greater wisdom. But all too often we want to make God our errand-boy, asking for this or that, and then becoming irritated or even losing faith when we do not get it, or, when things do not go according to our plans. Sometimes when things do not go well we might even say, “What did I do to deserve this?,” as if we have done so much for God and we now deserve so much more in return from him. We must remember that God has commanded certain things of us, commands to obey and serve him. Are we anxious and eager to know and do everything God requires of us? Or do we make that secondary to what we want from God?
In this little parable Jesus gives us a truer perspective. He is reminding us that God is the boss and God is the owner, and it is not for us to make demands or expect favors. It is not for us to second guess God and wonder why he doesn’t do more for us. Rather, we should be wondering first of all what God might want from us. And then, we should have the perspective Jesus gives in verse ten where he says, “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.’”
There is an old story about a king who was looking for a trustworthy and wise adviser. The story has some similarities to the Donald Trump’s TV show The Apprentice. The king has various questions and tests for each of the candidates for the position, and eventually he narrows the field down to three. All three have excellent knowledge and skills. For the final test, the king brings out his most valuable possession, a rare pearl of tremendous value that has been in the palace treasury for many generations. The pearl is laid on the stone floor, and a huge hammer is put beside. One by one, the three candidates are brought in, and the king tells them to smash the pearl.
The first two, horrified at the thought, use all their best skills to try and advise the king against such an unwise act of destruction. The king thanks the two men, and then dismisses them. He maybe even said “You’re fired.” The third man then comes in, and when he hears the king’s command, he immediately picks up the hammer and smashes to bits the valuable jewel. Everyone in the room is shocked, but the king is delighted. “I have found my man,” he said. “I didn’t need that old pearl anyway, but I do need a man who will obey me without question. The others did not hear what I said. I wasn’t asking for advice, I was asking for obedience. I told them to smash the pearl, and this is the only one who was willing to obey me without question.”
On one level, all of this is common knowledge. We know God is the boss, we know that everything is from God, and we know that we owe everything to God. But oftentimes we do not act on what we know. We often act as if God were answerable to us, and not the other way around. We feel sometimes as though God should be doing more for us, and fail to think very deeply about what God wants us to do for him. We take for granted all what God has done for us, and instead of giving thanks, we expect more. We look not at our own blessings, but at our neighbor’s and we begin to think that perhaps God has treated us unfairly. God is the boss and he is in control, and that comes as bad news to us if and when we think that we could be doing a better job of it. But if we truly believe in God, and trust in his love for us, then it is good news that he is the boss and in control; even if, like little children, we don’t always see or understand the reasons.
Psalm 24:1 — The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it; the world, and all who live in it.
Isaiah 64:8 — You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Jeremiah 18:3-6 — I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the Lord came to me. He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.”
LUTHER’S CATECHISM EXPLANATION TO THE FIRST ARTICLE OF THE APOSTLE’S CREED:
In this explanation of the first article of the Apostles’ Creed, Martin Luther first describes all that God has done for us, and then concludes with the same call to humble service that Jesus talked about in Luke 17:7-10.
The First Article
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
What does this mean?
I believe that God has created me and all that exist; that he has given me and still sustains my body and soul, all my limbs and senses, my reason and all the abilities of my mind, together with food and clothing, house and home, family and property; that he provides me daily and abundantly with all the necessities of life, protects me from all danger, and preserves me from all evil. All this he does out of his pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness on my part. For all of this I am duty bound to thank, praise, serve, and obey him. This is most certainly true.