At that time, Jesus said: "Whoever of you, if he has a servant to plow or graze the flock, will tell him when he comes back from the camp:" Come right away and sit down at the table? Do you serve me until I have eaten and drunk, and then you will eat and drink too? Will he be obliged to his servant, why has he carried out the orders he received? So you too, when you have done all that you have been ordered to, say: useless servants. We did what we had to do".
Chapter seventeen of the Gospel of Luke begins with Jesus saying to his apostles: "It is inevitable that scandals occur [...] look after yourselves!" The apostles, baffled perhaps because they believed that the way indicated by their Master was impossible to travel, implore Jesus to strengthen them in their choice, and then here is the plea "increase our faith". Jesus' response is not long in coming and it is disconcerting: "If you had faith as much as a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree:" Uprooted and go to plant yourself in the sea ", and it would obey you".
With this symbolism, Jesus exalts the power of faith, showing that the most extraordinary and difficult things can be accomplished with it. Now, in the reported parable, Jesus exhorts his disciples to flee the vain glory, which is pleased with good works, and shows us that, after having done all that God wants from us, we have no reason to glory.
To understand the meaning of this passage, it is necessary to explain the noun "servants" which, from the Greek lesson of the Gospel text, was hastily translated into "useless servants". However the Greek word servant has two different shades of meaning, both indicating the smallness. First of all it may indicate the uselessness, the non-use of any; or, being poor, cowardly, because of the humility of one's condition. The meaning of the corresponding Latin term also indicated who is dealing with humble services.
The Italian version of the Gospel passage, which prefers to translate the term with "useless servants" perhaps to avoid the humiliating connotation of the term "vile", in reality it offsets the correct meaning betraying the sense of the content. It is evident from the text that the servants are not useless because they have worked! Much more suitable for the context is the meaning "vile", "poor", "humble": we are vile servants, we are poor servants, we are simply servants, "lenders of services" for the Lord.
And then the evangelical expression wants to express that serving is not a merit, as being a creature, the work of the Creator, contains the availability to be made available, to be called to perform such services. "Go therefore and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you".
Jesus is speaking to his disciples, and it is therefore as if he said that if a man does not serve, he loses the meaning of his life and of himself; who, instead, lives his existence just as a faithful servant, does nothing but respond to the call and adhere to the divine plan of the one who generated it. This is why an immediate reward is not necessary, this is why serving the Lord cannot be a reason for claims.
Paul's words come to mind: "For me to proclaim the Gospel is not a boast, for it is a necessity that is imposed on me: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I do it on my own, I have the right to a reward; but if I do not do it on my own initiative, it is an assignment that has been entrusted to me. What, then, is my reward, that of proclaiming the Gospel for free without using the right conferred on me by the Gospel".
(1 Cor 9:18).