Parable of the Master and Servant

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The prayer of thanksgiving after Communion by Thomas Aquinas includes a phrase similar to the last verse of this parable: I thank You, O holy Lord, almighty Father, eternal God, who have deigned, not through any merits of mine, but out of the condenscension of Your goodness, to satisfy me a sinner, Your unworthy servant (painting by Alphonse Legros).

The Parable of the Master and Servant is a parable told by Jesus in the New Testament, found in Luke 17:7-10. The parable teaches that when somebody "has done what God expects, he or she is only doing his or her duty."[1] Therefore, being rewarded means doing more than expected.

Narrative[edit]

The parable is as follows:

But who is there among you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say, when he comes in from the field, "Come immediately and sit down at the table," and will not rather tell him, "Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink"? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not. Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, "We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty."

— Luke 17:7-10, World English Bible

Interpretation[edit]

This parable suggests that "even the best of God's servants are still unworthy because they have only done their duty and no more."[2] Nobody, "no matter how virtuous or hardworking, can ever put God in his or her debt."[1]

William Barclay[3] relates the parable to the last verse of the Isaac Watts hymn "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross":

Were the whole realm of Nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.[4]

The phrase "unworthy servant" in the last verse of the parable is widely used liturgically, such as in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.[5]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Arland J. Hultgren, The Parables of Jesus: A Commentary, Eerdmans Publishing, 2002, ISBN 0-8028-6077-X, p. 251.
  2. ^ Mark Black, Luke, College Press, 1996, ISBN 0-89900-630-2, p. 285.
  3. ^ William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, ISBN 0-664-22487-3, p. 257.
  4. ^ WikiSource: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.
  5. ^ The divine liturgy of our father Saint John Chyrsostom, Byzantine Seminary Press, 1965, footnote 100.