At the end of the day, can you look back and say you were really profitable, or did you only do what was required of you? Just how much does God expect of Christians?
Do you know what it means to be a worthy or profitable servant? Do you sometimes feel that, despite your efforts, you are not growing spiritually as you should? Recently a disheartened Church member admitted: "I'm trying the best I can, but I just don't see much spiritual growth in my life. What's wrong with me? Am I really an unworthy servant?" These questions concern everyone of us in the Church of God. We are to overcome our carnal tendencies and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18). But what causes our growth to sometimes be so slow? Can we be good Christians and still be unprofitable servants? What does God require of His begotten children?
Christ gave the answer
One of the best known incidents in the Bible is the short conversation that took place between Christ and a young, wealthy man. From all indications, this man. was conscious of his duties, faithful and respectful. He knelt down before Christ and asked Him what he should do in order to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:17). Christ told him to keep the commandments — and to make His meaning even clearer, He quoted the part of the Ten Commandments that defines man's relationship with his neighbor. Unlike many people today, the man didn't argue with the answer. He recognized the validity of the order and the importance of keeping God's laws. In fact, in his own mind, he considered himself to be a profitable servant. "Master, all these have I observed from my youth," he told Christ (verse 20). An unusual man, indeed! He loved God and was loved by Him. Not many, nowadays, could stand before Christ and tell Him boldly that they have observed from their youth His commandments. But in his own righteousness, this man thought he had passed the test. What else could there have been for him to do in order to receive his reward? Christ told him, "One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have, treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me" (verse 21). What a harsh order — or so it seemed! Why should anyone be asked to give up so much if he was already doing his best to be good and keep the commandments? No, it didn't make sense. The man was unwilling to go that far, to sacrifice to such an extent. Therefore he went away "grieved," because he had great possessions (verse 22). Was he a profitable servant? Would you have done better had you been in his stead? Are you actually doing any better with your own possessions right now — however big or small? If your sense of values is no. better than his, then you are an unworthy or unprofitable servant!
Does God ask the impossible?
You might be shocked and even irritated if you were told that God expects of you the impossible! That's the way the apostles felt when they heard the answer Christ gave the young man. Would God really ask the impossible? It depends what is meant by impossible and who is doing it. But Christ told His disciples that all things are possible with God — even what seems impossible to us. What is the greatest gift you can receive in this life? Isn't it God's Spirit? If you are a member of His Church, God has given you something the rest of the world doesn't have. Much will be required of you, because much has been given to you (Luke 12:48). For instance, you cannot conquer your human nature, however great your human efforts. But God can and does do it through you with His Holy Spirit. You cannot fight against Satan and the lust of the world, but God can and will if you obey Him. Consequently, though on your own you are unable to do much, with God's Spirit you can do the impossible! Your part is to do God's will — to surrender to Him and let Him shape and use you as He wishes. Some in the Church believe they are doing their share by merely living good lives. They may be members in good standing, willing to serve whenever called upon. Just like the young man with great possessions, they may consider themselves "good Christians," wondering what's left for them to do to inherit eternal life. But that's not enough to please God. Even people in the world — who don't have God's Spirit — can be "good Christians" that way. If your righteousness and deeds don't exceed theirs, you won't enter the Kingdom. They don't have God's Spirit, but you do. Christianity must have for you a different connotation. Keeping God's commandments, paying His tithes, observing His Sabbath and His Feasts — all these things are required of you. But they won't make you a worthy servant. You must go over and above these requirements — you must do what others in the world can't do. God's Spirit in you will not only help you obey His commandments in the letter and in the Spirit, but will also help you fight against the things you are humanly unable to conquer. You must go over and above your call of duty because you have received God's Spirit — a Spirit of love and power that enables you to do what, With human nature, you are unwilling or unable to do. That's why Christ said, "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" (Luke 17:10).
God's Spirit works through us
Jesus Christ revealed, in the Sermon on the Mount, the difference between what we humanly can do, and the humanly impossible things God's Spirit can do through us. He stated, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill" (Matt. 5:21). This is a law any human can learn to keep if he has received the proper education. He might be able to go through life without ever being guilty of a crime. But it won't make him a profitable servant in God's sight. Christ specified, "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire" (verse 22). Think of it! This aspect of the law is impossible for any human being to keep without God's Spirit. But the Spirit of God gives you the help you need not to insult your brother or not to get angry with him. Again, Christ said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery" (verse 27). Many people in the world have learned not to commit adultery. They are faithful to their mates. Are you in this respect a better Christian than they? Do you obey Christ, who said, "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (verse 28)? If you are a faithful husband or wife, but you still lust after another person, you are far from being a worthy servant. "Again," Christ said, "ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths" (verse 33). Any well intentioned human with the right education can refrain from taking God's name in vain, using foul language and not swearing. But you, as a true Christian with God's Spirit, must do something others can't do: You must "Swear not at all; neither by heaven... Nor by the earth... neither by Jerusalem... Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black" (verses 34-36). And how about love? Is your love, as a Christian, different from the love of someone who does not have God's Spirit? "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy" (verse 43). Lots of people succeed in keeping this commandment. It's easy to love someone who loves you or is close to you. And it is just as easy to hate someone who is your enemy or wants to hurt you. But Christ added that you, as a true Christian, should "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (verse 44). You can't possibly love your enemies the way you love your friends — unless you have God's Spirit. It's hard, isn't it, to ask God to bless someone who hates you and who will seize every opportunity to hurt and persecute you? But as a Christian you have to help your enemies in need, do good to them and even lay down your life for them! Indeed, much is required of profitable servants.
Giving and good works
You don't work, give or serve to be seen of men, but of God. Ultimately, your reward is not of men, but of God. You can only strive toward perfection by allowing God's Spirit to do through you what you humanly can't or don't want to do. If keeping the commandments has become routine for you, or if you keep them just because it's required of you, then you are indeed an unworthy servant. A few months ago, a Church member asked one of our ministers if tithes and offerings sent to Pastor General Herbert W. Armstrong in Tucson, Ariz., were tax deductible. "If not," he added, "I want to send them somewhere else so that I can be given credit." The spirit of getting won't make anyone a profitable servant! Of course, that man didn't show much understanding or conversion. If you are paying God's tithes because you can get a tax deduction, then none of the money you pay — even if you give millions — will make you a worthy servant. To serve or give because you expect something in return shows carnal-mindedness. Compare that man's attitude with that of a poor widow who gave, her two mites as an offering. Did she expect anything in return? Did men see it? No, but God did, and Christ said, "Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had" (Luke 21:3-4). That poor widow was a worthy servant, not because of what she gave, but because of the spirit in which she gave — her godly attitude, her devotion and love. That's what made her do more than was required of her. Do you know the difference between a good work and good works? Whatever your task, you must endeavor to do a good work. That's required of you. But besides doing a good work you must have good works — works that are not required of you and which you perform without expecting anything in return. Consider what happened to Dorcas, a widow who did more than was required of her. She was full of good works. Notice the reward Dorcas received after she fell sick and died (Acts 9:37). Her friends who had seen her good works sent for Peter. They showed him the' coats and garments Dorcas had made while she was alive. Peter prayed for her and God heard his prayer. Dorcas was brought back to physical life because of her good works! She had probably never dreamed, while she was alive, that one day her good works. would be a testimony in her favor to be brought back to life. Dorcas had done more than was required of her, without expecting anything in return. She was a worthy and profitable servant. How about you? Do you have Enough good works? Just remember that keeping the commandments, praying every day and living a "good" Christian life are only part of the requirements of conversion; they won't necessarily make you a worthy servant. You have to do what others can't do without God's Spirit.
It takes effort
Mr. Armstrong has set us a good example; he is putting forth intense effort doing good works. Ambassador College in Pasadena, Calif., has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful campuses — if not the most beautiful — on the face of the earth. But it didn't just happen to be built that way. It required much hard work, drive, determination and vision. Mr. Armstrong has often said that it was God who did everything and not himself. That's true. However, as Mr. Armstrong has also explained, he had to work as hard as though he had done it! That's precisely what it takes to be a profitable servant. God is at work, but you have 'to strive as though you were doing them. You must push harder and harder as time goes on. That's what Mr. Armstrong does! You cannot be a profitable servant if you are selfish and lazy. You cannot please God if you only do what is required of you or do it in order to be seen by men. If you have God's Spirit, you must live to help and serve. You are, a Christian soldier whose fighting is done by God! Look at Christ's example. Look how hard He Himself worked, how much He sacrificed and what He gave up! More than anyone else, He lived to help, to serve and to sacrifice. He always did more than what was required of Him. Do your good works without ever expecting anything in return. If the people around you don't see them — or if they don't seem to appreciate them — don't worry about it. Perform every task as best you know how. God will always give you whatever help you need. Pray for His Work. Learn to love to serve. If God sees your good works, that's all that really matters, He will find you to be a profitable servant, and one day you will hear Him tell you: "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matt. 25:34).