The Parables of Christ – Unworthy Slaves

The Unworthy Slaves (Lk 17:7-10) 

7* “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?

8* “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?

9* “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?

10* “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”


1. Jesus often used the master-slave relationship in His parables to teach His disciples important principles concerning their service to God…

a. Illustrating the importance of forgiveness in “The Unmerciful Servant”Mt 18:21-35

b. Condemning the mercenary spirit of service in “The Laborers In The Vineyard”Mt 20: 1-16

c. Stressing the need for faithful and fruitful service in “The Talents”Mt 25:14-30

2. Once again He uses the master-service motif…

a. As He tells the parable known as “The Unworthy Slaves”Lk 17:7-10

b. In which He demonstrates an important attitude to be found in His disciples

[As we study this parable, it might be well to ask ourselves:  “What should be our attitude about the service we render to God?”  With that question in mind, let’s first consider…]



1. It may appear this parable is disconnected to what preceded it

2. But in describing the power of faith (Lk 17:5-6), it would be easy for the disciples to fall into a snare of pride

3. This parable would certainly help keep things in proper perspective


1. Jesus challenges His apostles to consider how they would act toward a slave

a. As master, none of them would be expected to invite the slave to sit down and eat with His master – Lk 17:7

b. As master, any one of them would expect the slave to prepare his master’s meal and serve him, eating only after the master is done – Lk 17:8

c. As master, none of them would likely thank the slave for doing what has been commanded of him – Lk 17:9

2. So they are to view themselves in regards to what they do as slave…

a. When they have done that which they were commanded, they should view themselves as “unworthy” slaves – Lk 17:10a

b. That is, they have simply done their duty as slaves, doing nothing worthy of merit – Lk 17:10b


1. Be careful not to conclude the parable presents the proper attitude of the “master”

a. Jesus is depicting the normal expectation of a master to make His point

b. In Lk 12:35-37 He describes what He Himself will do as Master

2. Instead, this parable is illustrating the proper attitude of the “slave”

a. When all that is commanded is done, we have not earned or merited anything

b. We have simply done that which is our duty as slaves

c. Whatever reward we might receive is due to grace, not merit!

[This parable is therefore illustrating the attitude we should have toward our own service to God.  Since we were “bought at price” (1 Co 6:20), we are truly slaves and should have the proper attitude of servitude.  With this explanation, here are some thoughts related to…]



1. Keeping God’s commandments are important but they do not merit or earn our salvation… Let me give you a couple of passages to remember:

Titus 3:4-7

4* But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,

5* He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,

6* whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

7* so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Eph. 2:4-9

4* ¶ But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,

5* even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

6* and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

7* so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

8* For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9* not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

2. After everything we do, we are still “unworthy slaves” – cf. Isa 64:6

Isaiah 64:6

6 ¶ For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

  3. Whatever reward we receive is one of grace,  not merit! 


1. While we cannot earn or merit our reward, obedience is essential!

a. “we have done only that which we ought to have done..”Lk 17:10

b. “what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. 1 Co 7:19b

c. Another passage to consider: 1 Jn 2:4-6

1 John 2:4-6

4* The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;

5* but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him:

6* the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

2. Many people tend to equate obedience with legalism…

a. Especially when it is pointed out that they are not keeping a particular command

b. Legalism is the idea that one earns or merits salvation by their obedience

c. If we believe that obedience earns our salvation, then we are legalists

d. But if we obey God out of love and duty, we are simply faithful slaves!


1. This parable reminds us of the need for obedience, as do other passages:

 a. Only those who do the Father’s will enter the kingdom of heavenMt 7:21

Matt. 7:21

21* ¶ “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.

 b. We must observe all that Christ commanded -Mt 28:20

Matt. 28:20

20* teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 c. Christ is the author of salvation to all who obey Him – Heb 5:9

Heb. 5:9

9* And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,

d. When He comes again, those who did not obey His gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction – 2 Th 1:7-9; cf. 1 Pe 4:17

2. But it’s primary lesson is to remind us that no matter how much we do for the Lord… 

a. We are still “unworthy slaves”

b. Whatever we have done was our duty as servants to begin with

3. Therefore, whatever reward we receive will be one of grace and not merit; and what wonderful grace that will be, to hear the Lord say at the end of time:

Matt. 25:21

21* “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’

So the question becomes:

Are you a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, doing that which is your duty to do? 

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