Parables: See, Hear, and Understand
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.  For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. (Matthew 13:10-13 ESV)
[ NEW ORLEANS – At the afternoon roll call on a recent day at the NOPD’s Second District you could find, sitting among many of his colleagues, who are in their 20s, a 58-year-old rookie officer – Richard Hamilton.
At an age when many officers have already retired, he’s just getting started. “Everybody thinks I’m crazy,” he said.
Hamilton knows exactly what he’s getting in to. That’s because it’s not his first time as a rookie officer. He went through the NOPD Academy nearly 40 years ago. At the time, it was a natural fit as his brother was an officer in the midst of a 22-year career. His dad had done 20 years on the force and his dad’s uncle was killed in the line of duty in 1917.
However, after several years on the force, and with a growing family, Hamilton opted for a federal job with U.S. Customs. He spent 23 years fighting the war on drugs. But, while his body was in the jungles of South America, his heart was still in NOPD blue.
“I had to get back on the police department,” he said. “I want my obituary to say retired police officer. It’s important to me.” Even though he had been an officer before, he had to go back to the full academy. With his federal pension, Hamilton doesn’t have to be a 58-year-old rookie cop. He could just walk away – only he can’t. “I really feel back on the police department. I’m so happy,” he said. “I’ve got a tear in my eye.” Hamilton could lose the uniform one day to become a detective, but he says he’ll never lose the desire to wear the badge. ] (Excerpted from a WWL TV story by Mike Hoss on 02.22.2013)
Why do think stories about humble service pull at our heartstrings so much?
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at the table’?  Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?  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.’” (Luke 17:7-10 ESV)
What are your first impressions of this parable? Do you still feel warm and fuzzy about being a servant?
I think what drains this parable of its warmth and fuzziness is the term “unworthy” or in some translations “undeserving servants”. The Holman Christian Standard uses “good-for-nothing slaves”. Now, are you inspired to cook dinner after you’ve been working all day? (not implying you have an earthly master) The term Jesus used comes from either of the following verses:
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6 ESV)
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!  Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us.  Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.  Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123 ESV)
What do you think Jesus meant by unworthy?
Many people tend to equate obedience with legalism. Especially when it is pointed out that they are not keeping a particular command. Legalism is the idea that one earns or merits salvation, or favor with God, by their obedience. If we believe that obedience earns our salvation, then we are legalists. But if we obey God out of love and duty, we are simply faithful and undeserving servants!
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,  to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,  whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,  so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7 ESV)
“Jesus knew how to balance one truth with another so that His disciples would not go to extremes. The miraculous faith of Luke 17:6 (a tiny mustard seed) must be balanced with faithful day-by-day “ordinary service” that may not be exciting. Here is a servant who plows, takes care of cattle, and even cooks! He does each job faithfully so that he might please his master. But when we do our jobs, we are still only “unprofitable servants.” The word translated “unprofitable” means “without need,” that is, nobody owes him anything. Even the rewards we get from the Lord are pure grace! He does not “owe” them to us because we have only done our duty.” (Weirsbe WEO)
How does recognizing our unworthiness effect our life?
Be careful not to conclude the parable presents the proper attitude of the “master.” Jesus is depicting the normal expectation of a master to make His point. Instead, this parable is illustrating the proper attitude of the “servant.” When all that is commanded is done, we have not earned or merited anything.
“Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. 37 The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! 38 He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready. (Luke 12:35-38 NLT)
Jesus will be a very different master. As we learned in the last lesson Jesus is a loving shepherd and now a just master. In this parable the master is God and the undeserving servants are the those who have their sins forgiven by grace through faith in the master, not by their deeds. The undeserving servant can also be a Pharisee who believes their salvation is earned in service to a master who is motivated by their works. The difference is that the Pharisee is also undeserving of salvation.
When we serve out of love. The outcome is faith as evidenced by our obedience. Living in this context is ultimately more fulfilling than any worldly accomplishment. Faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness. Our righteousness is the indwelling Christ in us. A gift we did not deserve and certainly are not worthy of. Live loved, live in righteousness, and hear the voice of the Master.
His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21 ESV)
Are you a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, doing that which is your duty to do? Like Richard Hamilton, serving in happiness will put a tear in your eye.