“We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” This week’s column finds me preparing to repaint my home office. Obviously, the first thing I had to do was to pick a color. I didn’t think that this would be all that difficult until I walked into our local paint store and saw row upon row of color samples in every imaginable shade of every imaginable color. The clerk must have seen the dazed look in my eyes because she quickly came over and asked if I needed help. “Celery,” I spluttered, “I want to paint my office the color of celery.” We were off and running.
Thankfully the young woman was very understanding about my difficulty in describing this color that wasn’t quite green but wasn’t quite yellow, either; and she spent the next 10 minutes patiently pulling out first this color, then that color, until we had something that came close to what I thought I wanted. But she didn’t stop there. Next she suggested that I take home a couple of the other colors I had been considering (at least two swatches of each so that I could stick them up on the wall in different areas of the room and see them under different lighting conditions) and live with them awhile before deciding. And she did it all with a smile.
Obviously this woman enjoys her work. Because of her willingness to take the time to listen, my initial confusion was relieved and I was soon able to find exactly what I was looking for. When I thanked her she insisted that she likes helping customers and, besides, she was just doing her job.
Like the woman in the paint store the faithful servants in Luke’s Gospel are just doing their job. But faithful service can sometimes work miracles, and a job done well serves both master and servant. How do we view our work? How do we do what we are “obliged” to do? Can those we serve count on us to do our job well?
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.