“And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? “But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? “Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.'” Luke 17:7-10, NKJV.
I was struck when looking at this verse how it gives us a glimpse into the world of grace that the kingdom of God hints at. It is a gift culture. We are to do all manner of service, expecting nothing but to bless. We are dead to the need for profit from our service and labor because we are already filled with the riches of His grace which He has lavished upon us. It is important to notice that it is implicit in the story that no repayment or recognition for the labor done is expected or given. Once we begin to serve in order to be thanked, in order to be recognized, we leave the culture of grace and gift behind. Under grace, God only blesses as a gift unearned, and we may GIVE thanks but it is not payment for blessing.
As long as we remain outside of the universe of grace, we do not expect unearned blessing, and so we cannot bear to give and receive nothing back. There is always the question of fairness, the question of recognition. If we believe that we must earn our significance then we must act in such a way that our significance is recognized. This story cuts like a knife to those under law, because it says you serve as though earning nothing. Under law, since there is no further expectation of blessing besides the blessing which is deserved, this this idea of profitless service is the same as robbery since you serve as if earning wages. It is pure slavery, raw injustice. Under grace, under the gift culture, blessings are given because it blesses, because of the simple raw pleasure of the thing which is brought to others. To others outside of the universe of grace, we appear as slaves, but there is a secret life of joy and substance to those inside the gift culture.
You may be reading this thinking, “OH! That is convicting! I spend so much time seeking recognition and the thanks of others! I need to repent!” This is the wrong idea; I am not telling you to stop seeking recognition and significance by your deeds. These things are the old riches you are going to sell from joy over finding this new treasure, this entry into the universe of grace. All things are yours. All blessings belong to you. In faith, even the things you lack, the terrible difficulties you bear, are producing an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. You are free under grace to give, to bless, to exercise your gifts and use your riches at all times to do beautiful things, because you are already significant. This leaves it open for others to give you HONEST thanks, because you don’t demand it, you don’t need it, you don’t require it at all. This opens the door for others to give to you, and for God to give to you, not because you deserve it or have earned it, but as a pure act of love and blessing. It opens the door also for you to receive blessing though others are perhaps not as apparently blessed, because it is ALL as a gift. When others are blessed, you also can rejoice and give thanks, because you are already significant. When another is blessed it does not mean that you are less significant. It means they received a beautiful gift. It opens the door for you to serve from a true heart, not because you are seeking approval, but because you are greatly loved, and so you greatly love. All your sacrifices are from joy over the one thing which can never be taken away from you.