Unprofitable Servant

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 
The Lord replied,
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

“Who among you would say to your servant
who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field,
‘Come here immediately and take your place at table’? 
Would he not rather say to him,
‘Prepare something for me to eat.
Put on your apron and wait on me while I eat and drink.
You may eat and drink when I am finished’? 
Is he grateful to that servant because he did what was commanded? 
So should it be with you.
When you have done all you have been commanded,
say, ‘We are unprofitable servants;
we have done what we were obliged to do.’”
(Luke 17:5-10)   

Scripture Study

17:5. “Increase our faith!”: a good ejaculatory prayer for every Christian. “ ‘Omnia possibilia sunt credenti. Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ The words are Christ’s. How is it that you don’t say to him with the apostles: ‘Adauge nobis fidem! Increase my faith!’?” (The Way, 588).

17:6. “I’m not one for miracles. I have told you that in the holy Gospel I can find more than enough to confirm my faith. But I can’t help pitying those Christians—pious people, ‘apostles’ many of them—who smile at the idea of extraordinary ways, of supernatural events. I feel the urge to tell them: Yes, this is still the age of miracles: we too would work them if we had faith!” (The Way, 583).

17:7–10. Jesus is not approving this master’s abusive and arbitrary behavior. He is using an example very familiar to his audience to show the attitude a person should have towards his Creator: everything, from our very existence to the eternal happiness promised us, is one huge gift from God. Man is always in debt to God; no matter what service he renders him he can never adequately repay the gifts God has given him. There is no sense in a creature adopting a proud attitude towards God. What Jesus teaches us here we see being put into practice by our Lady, who replied to God’s messenger, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).[1]


What is Jesus telling us when he says, When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.’”

Our first response might be to step back and wonder why Jesus would rebuke our servant efforts. But that is not what is being said. The Lord wants us to understand that all we do in His name is for the glory of God. Our reward is in the participation of building up His Church and deepening the maturity of our discipleship.

What we do in serving God can ‘earn’ us salvation. All of our efforts should be approached with the same humility that Christ exemplified in his life on earth.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus.
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Phil 2:6-10)

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.



[1] Saint Luke’s Gospel, The Navarre Bible (Dublin; New York: Four Courts Press; Scepter Publishers, 2005), 148–149.