Have you ever wondered, How can I be a profitable servant? Remember Jesus Christ’s parable of the employer who had no obligation to thank his servants for doing their duty? Their reward came in the form of wages and benefits (Luke 17:9).
Christ compared that to our calling to do God’s Work: “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done which was our duty to do” (verse 10). If that’s the case, how can we become profitable servants?
Becoming Profitable Servants
Every Passover season we emphasize the need to examine ourselves. We ask ourselves, Are we the same since God called us into His marvelous truth? Have we overcome, changed and grown in godly character?If so, how much?
How, then, do we become profitable? First let’s define “unprofitable.” By using the Scriptures’ definition of what an unprofitable servant is, we can discover what is required to be a profitable servant.
The word “unprofitable” in Strong’s Concordance is defined as useless. The Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary states concerning Luke 17:10: “We have not profited or benefited God at all by our services.” Just doing what God commands us to do is not profiting God, except for the joy it gives Him to bless us. On the other hand, we greatly profit and benefit from obedience to God’s laws (Psalm 19:11).
The phrase You are now a profitable servant is nowhere in the Bible, but by studying other parables we can learn how to become profitable. The parable of the sower demonstrates that God has sowed the seed of His truth in many different individuals who basically have done nothing with their calling. Those who do respond and receive a minute portion of the Holy Spirit grow, bringing forth fruits of the Spirit.
But how much growth is required? “But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23). Some bear more fruit than others. Some are more yielded and some have more abilities and talents. The phrase we all would like to hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” could as easily be stated, “Well done, thou profitable servant.” In the parables of the talents and pounds (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27), those who did something with their God-given abilities gained more talents. They responded to their calling, overcame, became doers of the word. We also must be doing something with what God has given us, but what? We are needed to support the Work through prayer, study, fasting and use of our talents and abilities to benefit it. This produces spiritual growth in us; we then increase in God’s Holy Spirit and overcome sin as we obey God. And overcoming leads eventually to inheriting the Kingdom of God.
What about the servant who gained nothing, instead doing only what he was told? “Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed” (Matthew 25:26). Christ demands a profitable return for the gifts entrusted. “Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury” (verse 27). Christ essentially called him an unprofitable servant. What fate befalls an unprofitable servant? “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (verse 30).
Things Commanded You
Being a member of God’s Church does not automatically make a person “profitable.” Some called into God’s Church get a little puffed up because they have been called and understand God’s truth. True, to know and understand God’s truth and plan of salvation is something to be thrilled about, but a person should keep in mind that he had nothing to do with his calling. God chose each of us (John 6:44), and He taught us (verse 45).
We are instructed to keep the commandments, observe God’s sabbaths, tithe, give offerings, pray, study, and fast occasionally. But we must be sure we are doing it for the right Work, in the very same Church Christ is using to warn the Laodiceans, the nations of Israel and the world (Revelation 3:20; Isaiah 58:1; Ezekiel 33:7). God requires us to support this Work and submit to His government. So even if you pray, study, fast and tithe faithfully—if you are doing it for the wrong work, you are unprofitable to God.
Should we then expect God to thank us for doing what we are commanded to do, for doing what will profit us physically and spiritually?
God commands these things for our spiritual growth. When Christ magnified the law, He revealed the spiritual intent of it. Keeping only the letter of the law is unacceptable; this could be termed “doing only what we have been commanded to do.” God requires we keep it in the spirit as well. Christ explained that not only is the physical act of adultery a transgression of the Seventh Commandment, but even thinking or looking with lust in the heart breaks it.
Tithes and Offerings
An unprofitable servant is also one who tithes as directed by God’s law but gives only to the penny so as not to give one penny more than necessary. This attitude could be likened to the servant who buried his one talent. It also reflects a heart that is not truly in the Work.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Although God sets the amount of our tithe, He doesn’t set the amount of our offerings. Because of this, our offerings reveal to Him where our heart is. Do we give offerings cheerfully? (2 Corinthians 9:7).
We become more profitable the more our hearts desire to support the Work, knowing that our tithes and offerings are helping others hear God’s truth and final warning.
Prayer and Fasting
The Day of Atonement is the only day on which we are commanded to fast. But if we only fast on this day, we may be unprofitable.
The Bible shows the need for fasting throughout the year for many other reasons (to draw close to God, to overcome, to supply the needs of God’s Work, to pray for healings and over trials of other brethren, etc). Daily prayers are needed for God’s Work at headquarters. Pray for the production of The Key of David, all the publications, the accounting department, mail processing and all the staff. Pray that God will stay the hand of Satan so he cannot hinder the Work in any fashion. Fasting and praying in this manner will ensure that you are a profitable servant.
Continue in tithes, offerings and prayers to help our Laodicean brethren hear Christ’s knock (Revelation 3:20). If they respond, they won’t have to go through the Great Tribulation.
We are commanded to pray. We’re told to come boldly before God’s throne, earnestly seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). God doesn’t tell us how long we need to pray, but there are many examples in the Bible. David said, “Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice” (Psalm 55:17). Daniel prayed three times a day (Daniel 6:10). Herbert W. Armstrong often said we need to pray as long as it takes to get close to God. Praying for all those things discussed above will take time. Mr. Armstrong also said that a person needed to pray at least half an hour daily just to “break even” spiritually and at least 45 minutes to grow spiritually.
The same principles for praying apply to our Bible study. “Study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). This aids our spiritual growth. “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). When we pray, we are talking to God. When we study, God speaks to us. If we pray and do not study, then we’re doing all the talking; therefore we learn nothing.
Sabbath and Holy Days
Even though we are commanded to observe the Sabbath and the holy days (Exodus 20; Leviticus 23), God wants us to delight in them (Isaiah 58:13). They are commanded assemblies—holy convocations. If you live close enough to where services are conducted, every effort should be made to attend. We should look forward to the Sabbath each week and each annual holy day as it comes. God’s presence and blessings are in these days. There is a closer fellowship with the Father and Son when we properly observe the sabbaths and meditate on what each day pictures. If we merely keep them—without joy and anticipation—we may only be doing what has been commanded, slipping into the unprofitable servant category.
The Kingdom of God
Now we can begin to see what it means to be a profitable servant. In these parables Christ equates spiritual growth with being profitable. Mr. Armstrong wrote: “Of the others called out of the world and into God’s Church, some produced spiritual fruit 100-fold, some 60 and some 30. They are saved by God’s free grace, but in the next life in God’s Kingdom, shall be rewarded or given positions of responsibility and power according to their works. That means according to fruit borne. And fruit borne means more than regular Bible reading, prayer, Church attendance or volunteer Church duties. It means ‘the fruits of the Spirit’ as explained in Galatians 5:22-23—showing more love or outgoing concern toward others, growing in joy, which is happiness running over, in peace with your own family, with neighbors, with all others. Growing in patience, being more kind and gentle toward others, goodness and faith, as well as meekness and temperance” (Mystery of the Ages).
What does God offer to those who are profitable? He wants to increase His Family by millions and eventually billions of people. Those called now are the firstfruits of this great master plan—given the transcendent privilege of being called before the rest of mankind. If we, as firstfruits, desire to enter God’s Kingdom for selfish reasons, we don’t have the goal of a profitable servant. To be a profitable servant, we must have the desire to give, serve, help and train others to achieve the marvelous gift of being members of God’s Family. God is training us now so that we’ll be able to help train others. We will be kings and priests under Christ (Revelation 5:10; 20:6). To have this as our goal indeed makes us very profitable!
Mr. Armstrong wrote: “In the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27), Jesus is pictured as the rich young ruler going to God’s throne in heaven to receive the Kingdom of God. He gave to each in the Church a pound, representing a portion of God’s Holy Spirit. This illustrates that we must grow in the Spirit, or in grace and knowledge, during the Christian life. When Christ returns to Earth, having received the Kingdom and being already crowned, He shall call those of the Church to an accounting. The one who has multiplied the portion of the Holy Spirit received (has grown and developed in grace and knowledge) by 10 times over, shall be rewarded by being given rule over 10 cities. He who qualified by spiritual growth and development only half as much shall reign over five cities as his reward. Remember we shall be rewarded according to our works or spiritual growth, but salvation is a free gift” (ibid).
We must be faithful with the continual Work entrusted us. Each is rewarded according to his or her ability—what you do with what you are given. Thirty-fold is the least amount of growth mentioned. Having your heart 100 percent in the Work and Church should be your goal. Everything you do in your marriage, child rearing, work, play—all should revolve around God’s way of life. Being a light in the world is not to exalt yourself but to glorify your Father in heaven. It glorifies His perfect government—how His way of love brings everything good and desirable in life.
When these characteristics begin to occur in our lives, we are on our way to becoming profitable servants. If you think you have room for improvement and you are sincerely striving to improve while crying out to God for help, you are on the way to becoming profitable for God. Remember, God looks on our attitudes.
On the other hand, if you are certain you are profitable and are not even concerned one way or the other, then you need to take heed (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Mr. Armstrong wrote: “But what of the person who thought he ‘had it made into the Kingdom’ without spiritual growth and development? He shall have taken away from him that first portion of the Holy Spirit—he shall lose the salvation he mistakenly thought he had. He shall not make it into the Kingdom! He was not called merely for salvation, but to qualify to rule and teach under Christ in the Kingdom, when God does open salvation to all on Earth” (ibid).
To become profitable takes effort, but isn’t God’s Kingdom worth it? Let’s all continue to become profitable, so we can hear those words spoken to us, as written in Matthew 25:23: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”