“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” Luke 17:10b
This is a hard phrase to say and it is even harder to truly mean when said.
Imagine the context in which this attitude toward Christian service must be spoken and lived. For example, imagine a mother who spends the day cleaning and then preparing the family meal. At the end of the day, it is certainly nice to be recognized for her hard work and to be thanked for it. Of course, when the family is grateful and acknowledges this loving service, this gratitude is healthy and is nothing other than an act of love. It is good to be grateful and to express it. But this passage is not so much about the fact that we must strive to be grateful for the love and service of others, rather, it’s about our own motivation for service. Do you serve so as to be thanked? Or do you provide service because it is good and right to serve?
Jesus makes it clear that our Christian service to others, be it in the family or in some other context, must be primarily motivated by a certain duty of service. We must serve out of love regardless of the receptivity or acknowledgment of others.
Imagine, then, if you spent your day in some service and that service was done out of your love of others. Then imagine that no one expressed gratitude for your work. Should that change your commitment to service? Should the reaction, or lack of reaction, of others deter you from serving as God wants you to serve? Certainly not. We must serve and fulfill our Christian duty simply because it is the right thing to do and because it is what God wants of us.
Reflect, today, upon your motivation for loving service to others. Try to speak these words of the Gospel within the context of your life. It may be hard at first, but if you can serve with the mind that you are an “unprofitable servant” and that you have done nothing more than what you were “obliged to do,” then you will find that your charity takes on a whole new depth.
Lord, help me to serve freely and wholeheartedly out of love for You and others. Help me to give of myself regardless of the reaction of others and to find satisfaction in this act of love alone. Jesus, I trust in You.