Unprofitable Servant

Learning Lessons

abc books chalk chalkboard

I have it said before “If you stop learning, you’re dead.” I suppose that is true. Even if it is only little trivial things, we learn something new each day. It never ceases to amaze me how God will work with His children to teach them. This is done by the Holy Spirit in a variety of ways.

“Wow!” You might say, “Are you telling me God audible speaks to you?”

My answer is that the voice of God is more than audible. I don’t want to get onto a discussion of how God speaks in this article. I will save that for another. Here, I want to give you an example of how God was dealing with me about something he wanted to reinforce.

Pondering

analysis blackboard board bubble

I awoke Monday morning with two words on my brain –“unprofitable servant.” I have to admit; I was scratching my head as my mind focused from sleep. Was God calling me this? Was there a lesson to learn? Was he reinforcing something I had learned? I mean, I had been reading the book of James, and I didn’t remember coming across that term or concept there.

As I went about my morning routine, the words would not go away. I poured a cup of coffee. I asked the Lord what he was trying to tell me because I was clueless. No answer. Well, ok. I went out to feed our animals. After everything had been fed, and still getting no answer to my musing, I just stopped and thought about what the phrase could mean. Not that my chickens had an answer. They are worse theologians than conversationalists.

I did what any modern-day Bible scholar would do – I googled it. The scripture passage Luke 17:7-10 came up in the search engine. In this passage, Jesus is speaking to his disciples and explains when a servant should come in from the field, the master would not tell him to sit at the table and be served. Rather, the master would instruct the servant to get cleaned up and serve the master. The master will not thank the servant for doing what his duty is – this is expected service. Jesus tells the disciples to be like the servant and do their duty because it is expected. Oh, and by the way, they shouldn’t expect anything more and to call themselves “unprofitable servants.”

“Okay, Lord.” I said, “Seems a little harsh, but I am still not sure where this is going. Was I expecting more from a situation than I should have?” As with any good study of any Bible passage, I looked at the scripture before and after. Before: Jesus is talking to the disciples about extending forgiveness. After: Luke tells the story of ten lepers who Jesus healed and only one came back to thank Jesus.

I read a few commentaries on the passage to get another view. The fog began to clear as I read on. Jesus told the disciples to extend forgiveness even if the person came to ask forgiveness seven times. The disciples responded with “increase our faith.” Jesus answered that they could do miraculous things like move mountains if they had the faith of a mustard seed.

In short, Jesus was saying “Guys it has nothing to do with faith. It has everything to do with obedience. You call yourselves servants of God (Christians)? To extend forgiveness is just your basic duty. This doesn’t require some great act of faith. It is part of the job. And you shouldn’t expect some great reward for doing it. That is true of this or anything else. In fact, your attitude should be such that it is a privilege and an honor to serve God. You should be grateful for the opportunity and recognize that without God you are unprofitable.”

The term unprofitable can also be translated as unworthy. When Jesus told the disciples to extend forgiveness, they responded as this was some lofty thing that they could only accomplish by great feats and faith, that surely only they could obtain. Jesus responded with the opposite extreme in an attempt to pull them to the middle.

In a sermon on this passage in Luke, Charles Spurgeon explains the reasonable duty of all Christians. He said that we are not to be too lofty or too lowly, but to stay in the middle. We are to be available to God to be used by God, and if we say we follow God, then we are his servants. Servants do their duty because that is part of the job and the servant shouldn’t expect anything beyond that. Christians likewise are obedient because they are servants and should have the attitude of a useful servant. When you enlist in God’s army, you are a soldier in that army and are to do what is your duty. End of story.

“Okay!” my flesh whined, “I get the point of the passage, but what has that to do with me? Was I being haughty or unworthy?”

I sat quietly – waiting.

Flashback

close up photography of woman in black long sleeved top

My mind wandered back to an incident the day before – Sunday. We had not gone to church that morning. We had been out of town and told folks we would probably not be back in time. My vehicle started to malfunction so we came back on Saturday night and Sunday morning, my daughter and I took my truck to drop it off at the shop for repair.

On the way home the sky looked stormy and threatened rain. A few miles from our house, the rain came in waves of water. My daughter slowed down, partly because of the rain and partly because we approached a truck with a camper attached sitting on the side of the road. The blown out tire in the middle of the road told the story.

“Should we stop and remove that from the road?” She asked. I paused. I knew we needed to extract the dead tire remnant safely, but I also wanted to offer assistance to the truck owners without endangering my daughter.

“Uh, yes,” I said. “Pull up, and I will get the tire. You stay in the car and out of the rain.” I don’t stop to help everyone, but I felt in my spirit this was a situation where I should offer help. As far as telling my daughter to stay in the car, the truth was, I used the rain to keep my daughter away from the truck and camper until I checked it out. Yes, I am a paranoid daddy. It’s my job. It’s what I do. Moving on.

I removed the blown out tread from the road and approached the truck. Inside was an elderly couple. She saw me first from the passenger side of the vehicle and motioned to her husband that I was at the window, which he rolled down. He had been looking at his phone.

“Do you need some help?” I asked.

“Well,” he answered, “We were trying to find someone to change the flat on the camper.”

“I’ll be right back,” I said and jogged to the car. I explained the situation to my daughter, and we obtained the scissor jack from her trunk.

Long story short – the jack barely lifted the camper. I had to strain to get it to work. Then I had to man-handle several of the lug nuts to get them off. They had obviously been put on with an air tool. Then all of them wouldn’t go back on, and I had to hand the gentleman one to have put on later. I did all this while kneeling on one of my flip-flops – in the rain; all the while knuckleheaded drivers whizzed by trying to avoid us and to pass others who were slowing down to either watch or be courteous.

When I stood up, the gentleman asked me what he owed me. I told him nothing and that I was sure someone would do the same for me someday. I put the dead tire in his truck. I cleaned up the jack and accessories, placing them in the trunk. I shook his hand and wished him well. He thanked me and then was on his way.

I was feeling pretty good as I sat down in the passenger seat of the car, except my back hurt. I thought about how our pastor had once said: “It’s okay to miss church if you are out being the church.” I was pretty pleased with myself and was wondering if this moment was a gold moment in my record. You know, the Apostle Paul said that the foundation of our Christian lives is Christ, but all that is built upon it (our actions) are wood, hay, stubble or gold, silver, or precious stones. I was jockeying for a gold moment here.

In the middle of remembering this moment from the day before, the Holy Spirit interrupted my thoughts. He tapped me on my spiritual shoulder (sometimes he thumps me in the spiritual forehead).

“Excuse me,” he said. “Weren’t you just being obedient in helping the couple? In fact, when your wife said you were a Good Samaritan, that’s what you told her.”

“Yeah, but wouldn’t you agree that was a gold moment? Maybe at least it gets a silver?”

“Or maybe ‘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.’”

“I didn’t thank you for the opportunity, did I?”

“No.”

“Then when I thought I was being spiritual, I was really wanting extra and a pat on the back, wasn’t I?”

“Yep.”

“I was really wanting someone to notice my good deed and compliment me Matthew-chapter-five-style, wasn’t I?’

“Un-huh.”

“Man. Pride goes before a fall.”

“Yes, it does.”

“Will you forgive me for the wrong attitude I had toward helping that couple?”

“Seventy times seven.”

“Thanks, Lord for the lesson, your grace, mercy, and forgiveness.”

“Your welcome.”

“Do you still love me?”

“You have to ask?”

The Game – Guest Post by D.L. Strand

Every once in a while you come across a piece of writing that strikes a chord within you. When I read this short story, I immediately loved it. It touched, what I believe, every writer who has been at this craft for any length of time feels. I asked if I could share this story. You can find other writing from D.L. Strand here.

The Game

The old man sat at his desk, scanning the fresh-typed words. His Olympia Manual waited patiently. Silently. Eager to record any thoughts he felt like sharing.

The words wouldn’t flow as they once did. There was a time when the hammers struck sparks and the words exploded off the page for those who read them.

He pursued the revelation. The constant eureka. He didn’t know how the process worked. It just worked. Of course, some days were better than others.

Especially now.

This was the tragedy of age. He knew he wasn’t as fast as he once was. Not as sharp. The audience was smaller, many of them moved on, one way or another.

His fingers, like his back, grown bent and stiff with age, moved slow and ponderous on the keyboard. Still, like a well-worn hammer, they pounded out the words as they came.

Still, every morning he sat down at his well-worn chair – the one that leaned slightly to the right – and hunted.

There are those who think inspiration a gift. He knew better. He knew Inspiration as a fickle mistress, to be wooed, seduced, pampered. The more you romanced her, the more she’d flirt with you.

She never came on strong. Not at first. She’d lightly tease the fuzzy edges of his dreams. Stroke the embers of his imagination. Eventually, he’d lose himself in the seduction. The fire. Unaware of the world around him. Typing furiously. Images scorching the page. Fingers struggling to keep up with the drama playing out in his head.

Sometimes he chased her all day, it was true. Never catching a glimpse. But later, after he’d left his desk and put his labors behind him, she would tempt some half-formed dream out of his thoughts. It could be during the news, a movie, while drifting off to sleep, or in the shower.

It seemed, that sometimes, running water drew her to him. Obviously, it wasn’t his body. Not anymore. Not ever. He had after all, the frame of a writer, built through years of sitting – stooped over his typewriter – drinking black coffee, eating donuts or whatever his wife put in front of him. Some days, he was unaware that he had eaten at all. But the evidence was there. The empty cup, the smeared plate.

It wasn’t that life didn’t attract him. He loved his wife. He loved the mornings spent together over eggs and coffee. And he loved the children they’d raised together.

He knew that it hadn’t been easy. Artists are a selfish lot, after all. Everything takes a backseat to the muse.

He was committed to his muse. And why not? Had they not shared 1000 stories? Created people? Worlds? Gods? Had she not given him a life richer than any he’d hoped for, had he worked for a company or gotten a job?

Job! It should be a four letter word. Who cared if he ate. Art drove him. He could go days without eating, but never a day without his art. No, never that.

So he sat in the place where he knew, one day he would die, surrounded by his volumes of his work, and those his peers. His awards. A fan’s standout letter claiming his words changed her life. A  framed note from an old teacher insisting he had no talent. In many ways, that letter gave him more pleasure than any of the awards or acclamations.

Today, he sensed a slight difference in the air. In the pressure on his face. In his lungs. Was it the weather? The season? No, he thought to himself. Nothing so mundane as that.

He searched for the cause. Not with his eyes or nose, but with his fingers. His mind. He knew that the change was not external. And yet…

He asked his muse, what was the change? If he could gain the truth of it, he could express it.

He sensed a stirring at his back. A bony hand on his shoulder. It was The Call. The one he’d dreaded. No Muse reached out for him today. No, it was her cousin, come to steal his breath.

He felt the icy breath on his ear. “Your efforts are done. Cease your toils.”

He typed on as if his fingers could flee for him.

‘I won’t leave with another story in me.’ He pressed on, struggling to remain, to complete just one more tale. To share another small slice of his soul with a hungry world.

“Come. She’s no longer yours. Moved on to younger fingers – agile minds. Her faithless eyes gaze elsewhere.”

Bitter sweat racing down his neck, he hunkered down, and continued his pursuit. His fingers floundered here and there.

“Stop this folly. Let someone else have their turn. Step back. Stand up. Release your pain and be free.”

He leaned in all the harder. His brow furrowed – squeezing words out of his mind. It dripped slowly, like juice from a spent orange.

“Come.” Another bony hand grasped his shoulder. An ache clutched his chest.

“NO!” He shrugged off the clasping hands. Not while I have breath in my lungs. Life in my fingers. They flailed for the formless. The story. The song. Just one touch to scratch another tale out of the scaly mind that once gushed forth prose and song like a fountain of shimmering water.

The Presence leaned in. Weight bore down on his shoulders. The final kiss to end his tale.

His fingers began to falter, to stumble, to slow.

‘Wait!’ He thought. “What was death, but the ultimate inspiration?”

He inhaled deep and righted himself. Ripped out the spent page, replaced it, and began the race anew.

He recognized The Shade for what it was. Just an outfit. A costume.

His Muse loved him. Loved the chase. She tried one final time. “Have an end.” She whispered.

He smiled. “No.” He whispered back “Let’s dance.”

She smiled and kissed his head. Her man. Her writer. He’d just needed a little push after all.

The shot fired. The game was on.

D.L. Strands Websites:

http://dlstrand.com/

The Storyteller’s Pub

 

Enjoyable Short Stories

This blog is a little different in that I wanted to share some short stories that I have had the pleasure to read over the past several weeks. I believe you will find them interesting too. I have given you a short snippet of the story and then the website where you can find that story and more of the author’s writing. I think you will be entertained, challenged, led to ponder as I did.

The Whopper by David Rae

“Do you remember that time we caught that fish,” JJ asked Grampa.

“Remind me again,” Grampa replied.

“I think it was a dogfish.”

“Oh yes, I remember that. It was a spur-dog,” said Grampa. “That’s a kind of shark. It was pretty big; it kept thrashing about and trying to bite me. Didn’t we have to use live bait? You don’t catch fish like that using worms. You need something that will attract the shark. You need something that moves in the water. Did we use mackerel; the fish blood brings the sharks? ” Click here to continue reading

When the Music Died by Lina Wrangert

“Greg chewed down his bottom lip as he struggled with the entangled tie around his white shirt-collar. The thing around his neck was an impossible mess to get in order. He didn’t understand ties in the first place, but of course, he had to wear one during this type of occasion. You would think the immaculate shoes and black suit-coat would do without the irritable thing, swaying around his throat. After a few faltering attempts he let go of the tie with a huff and loosened its knot to let it dangle there instead. He sniffled and shoved his hands down his dark trouser pockets with a taunt directed to the pebbled pavement. He had never felt comfortable with dressing up. Formality in ones clothing always strengthened the funeral-feeling, unless you wore more colorful apparel or a sunny smile which his older brother always managed to pull, even in the dark and gloomy suit he was wearing when he sprinted up to tap Greg´s shoulder.” Click here to continue reading.

I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead by Jodi Elderton

“Sometimes I wish I was dead. No, I’m not suicidal. I just want to sleep. Figure that’s the only way I’m ever going to get some rest. I work night shift and every cell in my body is screaming for sleep. There’s not enough caffeine in the entire world to wake me. As I drag out of bed, it’s as if someone tied 2-ton weights to my limbs.

“Oh crap! I should have set two alarms!” I said to no one. I quickly dress and bolt to my car, hoping the traffic wouldn’t be too bad. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and chug some more coffee.

“Today, buddy!” The joker in front of me is oblivious to the green light. I bet he’s texting, the menace.” Click here to continue reading.

Blue by Erin Halden

“Pema tiptoed through the amber morning light as fast as she dared, her feet silent on the titanium ground panels. She clutched her shoes to her chest to contain her clanging heart and kept her head down, as if this would make the passageway stay empty. Her mother’s voice filled her head.

We’re starting on Field 4-1 today.

Something about a generator down. Routine Maintenance. Pema didn’t hear the rest. Didn’t ask questions. She couldn’t. Panic had gripped her throat too tight.” Click here to continue reading.

Tangled Lines by Judy Blackburn

“Abby watched her husband Mike drive off on his way fishing again. The sun’s rays warmed her through the living room window. Abby turned to go out the back door and caught a glimpse of the wicker picnic basket in the hall closet. She slammed the closet door shut. “Why doesn’t Mike want us to do anything together?” Abby muttered to herself as she went outside.” Click here to continue reading.