Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 17:10 - 17:10

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 17:10 - 17:10

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Luk_17:10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

PRIDE is deeply rooted in the heart of man. It was that which first instigated him to disobedience; he wished to be as God [Note: Gen_3:5.]. Since his fall it leads him openly to cast off his allegiance to the Supreme Being, and to become a god unto himself, independent, self-seeking, and self-sufficient. This principle operates even in the renewed mind, and endangers the acceptance of our persons and services [Note: 1Ti_3:6.]. Our Lord frequently cautioned his Disciples against it. He had just inculcated the arduous duty of forgiving injuries [Note: ver. 3, 4.], and had assured them that, however difficult it might be, faith would enable them to fulfil it [Note: ver. 3, 6.]; but, aware that such obedience might serve as an occasion for pride and vain-glory, he now teaches them, by a just comparison [Note: ver. 7–9.], what thoughts they should ever entertain even of their best services. We shall consider,

I.       The comparison—

The extent of God’s authority over us is not sufficiently considered. There is no slave so much at his master’s disposal as we are at God’s. The Jews exercised a most despotic power over their servants—

[Some of the servants among the Jews were captives taken in war: others were slaves bought with money. Over these, their master had unlimited authority. They were regarded by him as his stock, and, like his cattle, were transmitted to his children as a part of their inheritance [Note: Lev_25:44-46.]. They were employed in all kinds of services: nor did their master esteem himself indebted to them for any services they might perform. This was perfectly well known to those whom our Lord addressed [Note: In this land of liberty this state of things does not exist: would to God it did not in any part of the British dominions!]. Perhaps many of his hearers had servants whom they so treated. Hence our Lord appealed to them respecting the truth of his statement.]

But God has an infinitely higher claim to our services—

[He originally formed us in the womb. We have not a faculty which we did not receive from him. This gives him an entire right over us [Note: Isa_44:21.]. He, upon this very ground, has an unlimited authority over the greatest monarch, as much as over the meanest slave [Note: Job_31:13-15.]. He has preserved us every moment since our first existence in the world. However he may have made use of second causes, he has been “the author of every blessing” we have enjoyed. The beasts are not so dependent on their owner as we on him. On this ground he claimed the homage of his people of old [Note: Exo_20:2-3.], and may justly demand our utmost exertions in his service. He moreover has bought us with a price: he has paid down a sum which exceeds all calculation. Silver and gold were insufficient for the cost: nothing would suffice but the blood of his only dear Son. Behold, he withheld not the mighty ransom [Note: 1Pe_1:18-19.]. He delivered up his Son for us all [Note: Rom_8:32.]. And has not this given him a right over us? Can we say in any respect that “we are our own?” or, is not the Apostle’s inference just, That we should therefore glorify him with our bodies and our spirits which are his [Note: 1Co_6:19-20.]?]

Hence it is evident that we can never confer an obligation upon him—

Even hired servants do not confer an obligation by the services they render. Much less do they, who belong to their master as his purchased possession. Least of all can we make God our debtor. We can do no more than what is our absolute duty to do. Works of supererogation exist only in the conceits of blind superstitious papists. The idea of performing them is arrogant in the extreme. None can entertain it in their minds without involving their souls in utter ruin. I he point is decided for us by the voice of inspiration [Note: Rom_11:35-36.].]

The justness of the comparison being made to appear, we proceed to consider,

II.      The command grounded upon it—

The injunction in the text is manifestly grounded on the preceding comparison. It imports,

1.       That we should not be puffed up with a conceit of our high attainments—

[There is no notice taken of our manifold defects. It is supposed that we actually do all that is commanded us; yet even on that supposition we have nothing to boast of. However perfect our obedience were in all other respects, pride would at once debase it all: God will have no flesh to glory in his presence. The very angels, who never fell, are constrained to give all the glory to God [Note: Rev_5:11-12.]. The Seraphim around the throne veil their faces and their feet as unworthy to behold or to serve their Maker [Note: Isa_6:2.]; and the glorified saints cast their crowns at the feet of Jesus, ascribing all their happiness to him alone [Note: Rev_4:10.]. Sinful man therefore can never have whereof to glory before God. His zeal and holiness can be of no account with God if once they be made the grounds of his confidence. God, so far from approving such a proud boaster, would abhor him [Note: Jam_4:6.], and would surely abase him in the day of judgment [Note: Pro_16:5.].]

2.       That we should be humbled under a sense of our unprofitableness—

[It is not possible that our works should profit God [Note: Psa_16:2.]”. Nothing that we can do can render him more happy or more glorious [Note: Job_22:2-3.]. We should live and act under a sense of this. The Apostles themselves were directed to consider their best works as worthless [Note: The text.]. Indeed, the truly enlightened in all ages have judged thus of themselves. Job abhorred himself in dust and ashes [Note: Job_40:4; Job_42:6.]. Isaiah seemed to himself like a poor leper, at the very moment that he was favoured with a heavenly vision [Note: Isa_6:5.]. Paul accounted himself “less than the least of all saints,” yea, the very “chief of sinners [Note: Eph_3:8. 1Ti_1:15.].” In this light should we continually view our best performances, and acknowledge that “our very righteousnesses are as filthy rags [Note: Isa_64:6.].”]


1.       Those who are looking for acceptance through their own works—

[How manifestly is your spirit contrary to that which the Gospel recommends! You are endeavouring to establish a righteousness of your own: you not only think to compensate for your sins, but to have a degree of merit sufficient to purchase heaven. Perhaps you profess only to rely on your works in part; but in whatever degree you expect them to weigh, you so far make God your debtor. Hear, I pray you, the voice of Christ in the text. Renounce from henceforth all self-righteousness, and self-dependence, and learn to say with the great Apostle, “I count all things but dung for the knowledge of Christ [Note: Php_3:8-9.].”]

2.       Those, who, professing to trust in Christ, are indulging self-complacency—

[It is inexpressibly difficult to maintain a truly humble spirit. Pride will rise in spite of our better judgment, and often operate when we are least aware of it. Our love of man’s applause too often appears even under the garb of humility. Let us guard against self-deceit. God sees through the veil of our hypocrisy, and will leave us to feel the sad effects of our corruption: he has warned us plainly of our danger [Note: Pro_16:18.]. “Let him therefore who thinketh that he stands, take heed lest he fall [Note: 1Co_10:12.]:” let him “not be high-minded, but fear [Note: Rom_11:20.].”]

3.       Those who are dejected because of their unprofitableness—

[It is well to be humbled under a sense of our infirmities; but the feeling of them is an effect of divine grace. Our contrition therefore should be tempered with thankfulness. Let us not forget that such a state of mind is approved of God. Instead of desponding, let us cleave more steadfastly to Christ [Note: Act_11:23.]. The viler we are in our own eyes, the more precious let him be to us. Thus will he increase, as we decrease [Note: Joh_3:30.]; and we ourselves shall be exalted in proportion to our self-abasement [Note: Mat_23:12.]. Let us in the meantime do all that we can to serve him. If we cannot profit him by fulfilling his commands, we may please him. Let that be our constant ambition [No te: 2Co_5:9. ö é ë ï ô é ì ï ý ì å è á .]. Then, though we have no claim upon him for a reward, he will requite our services; nor shall the smallest attempt to honour him be overlooked [Note: Eph_6:8.].]