Summary: Verse 10 contains the only recorded instance in Scripture where our Lord used the word duty. He taught us all that is necessary to know about duty by a simple illustration and application.
In his book Merely Colossal, Arthur Mayer tells of how he hired a stunt man to be buried alive
as a publicity stunt for a film he was promoting. The stunt man knew how to breathe in such a
way that he could stay buried for 24 hours and not suffocate. After the papers made a big splash
about a man being buried alive, the appointed day arrived, and just as the paper said, the man was
buried. The spot was carefully marked with lime, so it could be easily found. Unfortunately, a
heavy storm came up that night and washed away all the lime, and they could not find the exact
spot. The stunt man was lost. Mayer says 30 men dug frantically in the area for 12 hours before
they located him. He was in good condition, but he demanded overtime pay for the extra hours he
Just about anything can happen, but very few people are ever lost by being buried. The same,
however, cannot be said for the truth. Men are constantly losing the truth by burying it. Millions
lose sight of the most basic truth in life, which is redemption through Christ, by neglect. They
bury this truth under a mountain of meaningless religious ceremony. Christians are constantly
losing truths by not applying them to life when they hear them. Preachers are constantly losing
truths by getting into ruts and riding hobby horses through the Bible, forgetting that precious
treasures are found just off the beaten track.
For example, our passage today contains one of the most obscure parables of Jesus. It is not
even noticed in most books on the parables, and commentators skip over it with little recognition.
It has been buried in the field of neglect, even though it contains a precious pearl. Verse 10
contains the only recorded instance in Scripture where our Lord used the word duty, but in this one
instance He made it so comprehensive that nothing more needs to be said to recognize that duty
was a major subject of His teaching. He taught us all that is necessary to know about duty by a
simple illustration and application.
I. ILLUSTRATION. vv. 7-9
Jesus says if you have a servant in the field doing his job, and he comes in at supper time, you
don't make a big fuss over him as if you were his mother. You don't tell him to set down while
you fix his meal. Not at all, for you expect him to carry on his duties as a servant, and get your
meal. Jesus says, "Does the master thank his slave for doing what he was commanded?" And the
answer is, of course not. If that seems harsh, it is only because we read into it an unjust
relationship between a master and his slave. If we put it into a modern setting, it is obvious what
Jesus is getting at.
I once worked in a packing house where I was given a variety of jobs. One day I was told to
pull hooks off of pigs as they came by. Another day I was commanded to scoop up rosin and
throw it into a boiling vat. Another day my orders were to crawl under thousands of pigs hanging
in a cooler, and wash the fat drippings off the floor with a hose. Never once did any of the bosses
ever thank me for doing what I was told, and never once did I expect such thanks. Why? Because
it was my duty to do what I was told, and I was being well paid to do it. As long as they fulfilled
their obligation in the relationship, and paid me, it was my duty to do what I was commanded,
without expecting them to shower me with praise. I was not doing anyone a favor, I was doing my
That is what Jesus is saying. We have all kinds of relationships in life that involve obligations.
We have duties to our family, our church, our neighbor, our employer, and our nation. These
duties are the basic factors in human relations. They are so basic that we are expected to fulfill
them without patting ourselves on the back, and thinking we are great for doing so. In other
words, if you take care of your family, don't expect a write up in Life Magazine. It is your duty.
Don't expect a thank you card if you pay your taxes or put money in a parking meter. It is your
duty. If you don't run over anybody for 10 years, don't expect the traffic department to send you a
medal. It is your duty to drive safely. If you get out to vote, don't gloat and expect to be named