One of the teachings of Jesus advises:
“So you also, when you have done all that is commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10).
Why does Jesus advise his disciple to call himself/herself as “Unworthy servant”? This certainly affects one’s self-esteem. Having done one’s duty, is it fair to consider oneself unworthy? When a person’s self-esteem is disturbed or damaged in one way or other, the person would certainly be distressed. Self-image and self-prestige are very important for anyone. How does, then, Jesus justify his statement?
During the time of Jesus on earth, servants were always kept in the bottom layer of the social-hierarchy. Their duty was to obey what was commanded. Thus, they had very little respect in the society. Jesus would not desire to keep his disciples in the bottom level; rather he wants to raise their status to become adopted sons and daughters of his heavenly Father. Moreover, being created in the image of God, everyone is considered precious and valuable in the mind of Jesus. Hence he says: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God? Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6-7).
The reason why Jesus asks his disciples to consider themselves “unworthy servants” is that in fulfilling our duty, we should not fulfill it for getting just the approval and appreciation of the master; rather Jesus wants us to fulfill our tasks, in order to be true to our conscience and to God. Of course, in the expectation of our modern mind-set every achievement or victory deserves recognition and applause. Nonetheless, it must be noted that human appreciation may change from time to time depending on the emotional condition of the master and so the servant may try to render his duty not honestly but just to get the appreciation of his/her master. In the mind of Jesus, it is more important to get a real appreciation from God, the divine Master, whose reward is permanent and ever-lasting, than trying to get the appreciation of the human master.
Thus, Jesus says that an unworthy servant is not a worthless human person; on the contrary, he is the one who serves worthily; being a worthless servant is the path to being a worthy disciple.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.