Wisdom 2:23 - 3:9
For God created us for incorruption,
and made us in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his company experience it.
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them forever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.
Psalm 34: 2-3, 16-19
I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
let the humble hear and be glad.''
The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against evildoers,
to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears,
and rescues them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
Luke 17: 7-10
“Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
When reading the Gospel today, we may be taken aback by Jesus asking us to think of ourselves as “worthless slaves.” Other translations have said “unprofitable servants” but even that is hardly complimentary. These words might not sit well with us as they do not seem to come from the kind, loving Lord we know. But when we change our perspective, and realize that Jesus is showing us that we were made to serve God, so that doing what we were created to do does not give glory to us but to Him, we can receive those words as a loving admonition to keep our pride in check.
At the beginning of time, Satan rebelled against God and was cast out of Heaven. Wisdom tells us today that “through the devil’s envy, death entered the world.” Satan would not serve God. Rather than recognizing who God is, as the Author of life and Creator of everything, and recognizing that there is no life or joy or goodness outside of Him, Satan wanted to place himself there. He was created to serve but was envious of the one who had made him. So because of his rebellion and his attempts to drag mankind down with him, we have to contend with sin and death. We experience these tastes of Hell when we likewise either try to place ourselves in God’s position, or are hurt by others who do.
Satan tempts us to think that serving is a loss or a punishment. But Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that, like the angels, our purpose is to know, love, and serve the Lord. So when He tells us to think of ourselves as “unprofitable servants” or “worthless slaves” He is not calling for self-deprecation. On the contrary, He is reminding us to find our joy in doing the work He has asked us to do, understanding that everything we have received comes from Him, that any goodness associated with us is a result of His grace, and that it is a trap to try to find joy in being exalted outside of this.
It takes humility to embrace a call to serve God, and we will always be tempted by the Enemy to have the same attitude he has: to want to make ourselves number one, to serve God only for what we can get out of it, to feel like God “owes” us something. But when we encounter these temptations, we can remember that the Lord promises to be with us, to help us through difficulties and ultimately hold our souls in His hand. As we turn to Him daily and make a habit out of praising Him and asking ourselves, “How am I serving God — in my thoughts, words, actions?” He will continue to work with us and help us to be the servants He has called us to be. Ask the Lord for this grace today, and thank Him for creating you to know, love, and serve Him.