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God’s Word for You

Luke 17:10 unworthy slaves

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, November 9, 2018

10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have only done our duty.’”

The point our Lord is making is that the entire corpus of our life’s work does not merit anything toward our salvation. A man might avoid temptation, marry a fine Christian wife and strive to be a good husband to her; they might raise excellent Christian children together. He might give his life to the Lord’s work, spend his days proclaiming the gospel, his nights studying the word of God, and the small hours of the morning writing about the word of God, verse by verse, book by book through the entire Bible, the work of a lifetime, but these things are only the work of an unworthy slave.

No one, not one person, can say that the deeds they do accomplish anything toward their salvation. Our deeds are not righteous. They are stained and tainted by sin. You and I might be able to say, “I am honest. I am humble. I am generous. I obey my government. I follow God’s commandments. I love my neighbor as myself.” But because of the rathole of original sin, we are infected like a house infected with vermin—rats, roaches, bedbugs, or worse. An exterminator can try to get rid of them, but they’re never all killed off; they’re never all quite dead, just as our sinful nature is drowned daily in our baptism yet remains in us. It is an incurable addiction to sin, and nothing a person can do can end it.

So what is the answer? We put our faith in Christ, and not in ourselves at all. Give up on your own righteousness, if you think that’s how you’ll become right with God. Only Christ makes us right with God. Everything we do, however pure and holy we think it might be, is so stained with sin that it brings nothing but God’s wrath. He is furious with me for my sinfulness. It is only his mercy, his blessed mercy, that sent his Son to atone for all of my failures, sins, and rebellions.

Whenever I’m tempted to think that something, anything I’ve done is worth anything to God, I think of Luther’s words in his commentary on The Sermon on the Mount: “There stands Christ, stating the exact opposite.” He hands me his righteousness, his own righteous robe to cover over my sinful rags. He says, “Here, yours won’t achieve anything. Take mine.” And when the Father will look upon me in the Judgment as I stand there quaking in my boots he will say, “There I see my Son. Come home to the place he has prepared for you.” And through Jesus alone I have everlasting life. And so do you.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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