Do you remember hearing The Parable of the Unknowing Servant growing up in church? I suspect you don’t—not because you weren’t paying attention, but because I made it up not long ago. Though Jesus never told this story to awaken your imagination to the reality of his Kingdom come in your life, I imagine he would tip his hat to my attempt. So here we go. The Parable of the Unknowing Servant.
Once, there was a poor, humble servant who was called into the service of her country’s royal family. As you can imagine, she was delighted to be enlisted to such an esteemed position, and all the more excited about living life behind the mysterious curtain of this famous and wealthy family. The servant girl had previously worked as an accountant for the local blacksmith. Work with him was as dull as a newly forged blade from his foundry; he was neither glamorous nor wealthy, unlike the royalty that had called on her.
When the servant arrived at the palace, she was escorted through the grand entrance, down the grand hallway, and into the grand dining room where she was presented a seat at an exquisite round table carved from a single piece of cedar wood that looked older than time. Around the table sat the King and Queen, along with the Prince, who wore a comfortable smile and slid a piece of paper toward the girl as she took her seat at the table. The paper outlined the details of her new arrangement with the family, which she signed in a hurry, folded, and placed in her pocket. Eager to prove herself, she to work right away, checking the ledgers, logging expenses, paying bills, balancing the books. And on the work went, for years.
In time, the servant came to know a great deal about the royal family - you learn a lot about someone when you see how they spend money! This was a generous family, a force of philanthropy, always giving to people in need and in plenty, alike. And boy, did they know how to throw a party! The banquets were legendary. And frequent—there always seemed to be something to celebrate. Yet, despite all the servant came to know about the royal family over the years, she always wondered what they were really like.
More years passed and the servant girl grew tired of life behind the ledger. She would catch herself daydreaming about living the life her employers enjoyed, the freedom and authority, the generosity and joy. Some moments her wondering would bring a shrill of excitement to her soul, while others, a pang of resentment. Such is the case for people on the outside, looking in.
The time came for the servant to retire after 35 years of faithful service to the royal family. To celebrate, the King and Queen threw a grand banquet in her honour, thanking the girl for all she had done in the name of their kingdom. The servant was grateful, of course, for the honour of the moment, yet, in the subtle subterranean of her soul, disappointment loomed large. She knew the family so well, yet hardly knew them at all!
As the banquet guests sat for dinner, the Prince leaned over to the girl with his warm smile and whispered a haunting query. “Why, in all these years, did you never join us in celebration at our banquets?” He went on, “And why did we never see you when were were carrying out the family affairs in town? Why have you been so uninvolved in our lives since you came to live with us all those years ago?”
The servant was stunned. “Join you?” She responded. “Why would I have joined you? I am your accountant, a servant of your great household. What place do I have at your table?” The Prince’s smile softened and with kindness in his eyes he said, “You must not have read the papers you signed all those years ago. You thought they were a contract outlining the details of your work with us, what was expected in order to remain in our employment. But those papers were not a contract, they were a deed to our estate—everything you see here, it is ours, together. They were not work papers, but adoption papers—my place in the family is shared with you, my authority is extended to you. It has been all along!”
A wave of sadness washed over the unknowing servant’s heart. She had spent her life in possession of the most incredible blessing, but she never knew it, she never experienced it—the intimate embrace of a royal family, the joy of their fellowship, the authority of their name. Such is the tragedy of the unknowing servant.
Beloved Church, may you know the papers that have been signed on your behalf with the blood of our Saviour. And may you come alive to the limitless blessing that is yours in His name. And let us join our hearts with the Apostle Paul in worship, as we lift them to the Lord: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3).