We are only servants

This is a translation of a scriptural meditation from the Russian book, “Day by Day”. Lewis connection follows:

"Scripture: 'So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty’” ’ (Luke 17:10)

"No one is surprised when those who serve, for example, the lower ranks during a war, carry out their duties with true self-renunciation, forgetting themselves in order to follow the orders of their superiors. All this is considered perfectly normal, and none of these humble individuals expects a reward for simply performing their duty. But we are too ready to ascribe to ourselves a certain degree of virtuousness in what we sometimes are able to accomplish, forgetting that we are mere servants of our Divine Teacher who have received everything from Him, and having no worth in ourselves, cannot achieve anything on our own, and receive the power and ability to act only from Him.

“Let us never forget our total insignificance – realizing the extent that everything we do is not worth anything compared to what we receive every day from the Lord. Who among us can sincerely say that he has carried out everything that he has been commanded to do? But even if this could happen, let us always remember that we are only servants who have done what we were supposed to do.”

This brings to mind what Lewis says about a servant in his essay, “The World’s Last Night”:

“In ‘King Lear’ (III:vii) there is a man who is such a minor character that Shakespeare has not given him even a name: he is merely ‘First Servant.’ All the characters around him – Regan, Cornwall, and Edmund – have fine long-term plans. They think they know how the story is going to end, and they are quite wrong. The servant has no such delusions. He has no notion how the play is going to go. But he understands the present scene. He sees an abomination (the blinding of old Gloucester) taking place. He will not stand it. His sword is out and pointed at his master’s breast in a moment: then Regan stabs him dead from behind. That is his whole part: eight lines all told. But if it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted.”

This “First Servant” is, of course, not serving his earthly master in this instance, but his higher Master, which is what all of us are called to do – usually, of course, not at that extreme price.


“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4-8)