Duty + Self Forgetfulness

Luke 17 has a passage with the title, in my bible at least, of ‘Sin, Faith and Duty’. This is its conclusion:

“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

I feel like this is quite an unpopular passage because it doesn’t say anything that we’d like to hear! It speaks of duty, of long days, of work and not rest. But actually this is an important aspect of living as a Christian; it would be unrealistic not to consider all that this passage entails. And, its instruction to be servants, I think links in really well to what was in my previous post (here).

In the book of daily CS Lewis readings that I’ve been going through this year, was a reading (from the end of August) entitled ‘Two Attitudes Towards the Self’. It talks about how Christians should not take their own temperament and experience and consider them worth communicating simply because they are facts or because they are their own. Really, they are not of any intrinsic importance or value. Any importance is found in how these experiences allow us to learn something more. Lewis explains this in the following way:

We can imagine two men seated in different parts of a church or theatre. Both, when they come out, may tell us their experiences, and both may use the first person. But the one is interested in his seat only because it was his – ‘I was the most uncomfortable’, he will say. ‘You would hardly believe what a draught comes in from the door in that corner.’… The other will tell us what could be seen from his seat, choosing to describe this because this is what he knows, and because every seat must give the best view of something. ‘Do you know’, he will begin, ‘the moulding on those pillars goes on round at the back. It looks, too, as if the design on the back were the older of the two.’

Let us not treat our individual experiences as absolutes, to be fixated upon, as the first man does. Rather, let us be using them only as the way through which we are getting to know God and love him more – modelling the second man.

As such, may we be eager to work as servants like in Luke 17. Privileged to be serving the King, to have such access. Let us dwell on the gifts to be found in our perspective and position and not on the illusory importance of our experience.

And finally, in a manner of speaking, may we serve in such a way that we reach the evening and delight in being a part of our master’s household, however menial and tiring the work, rather than bemoaning the aching of our feet after a long day.

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