The Meaning of Luke 17:10 Explained

Luke 17:10

KJV: So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

YLT: So also ye, when ye may have done all the things directed you, say -- We are unprofitable servants, because that which we owed to do -- we have done.'

Darby: Thus ye also, when ye shall have done all things that have been ordered you, say, We are unprofitable bondmen; we have done what it was our duty to do.

ASV: Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do.

What does Luke 17:10 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Jesus drew the application. His disciples should have the same attitude as good servants. By claiming to be unworthy they were not saying that they were totally worthless people. They meant that they were unworthy of any reward because all the service they had rendered was simply their duty to their Master. In the context the particular duty in view was forgiving generously ( Luke 17:3-4), but the teaching applies generally to all the duties that disciples owe God.
Jesus and the apostles taught elsewhere that the prospect of reward should motivate disciples to serve the Lord ( Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; 1 John 2:28; 1 Peter 4:13; 1 Peter 5:1-4). Jesus was not contradicting that here. Here his point was that God is under no obligation to reward us. He will do so because He chooses to do Song of Solomon , not because He has to do so. Our attitude should be that God does not need us to serve Him and that serving Him is only our duty for which He is under no obligation to reward us.

Context Summary

Luke 17:1-10 - "take Heed To Yourselves"
The world is full of stumbling-blocks. Men are perpetually placing them in each other's way; and especially before little children, the simple and the weak. Let us take heed to ourselves and endeavor to make life's pathway easier for others. Let us spend lives of helpfulness and sympathy, full of love and forgiveness, of light and joy.
Do these precepts seem too difficult? Does a sevenfold forgiveness seem impossible? Then learn the lesson of the mustard seed, which opens its tiny door to the inflow of Nature's energy and is therefore enabled to produce what, to its unaided strength, would be impossible. Open your soul to God! His love through you will forgive and save to the uttermost!
But when you have done all, you have nothing to be proud of, and neither God nor man is under any obligation to you. Love is the elementary duty of the follower of Christ. [source]

Chapter Summary: Luke 17

1  Jesus teaches to avoid occasions of offense;
3  and to forgive one another
5  The power of faith
6  How we are bound to God
11  Jesus heals ten lepers
22  Of the kingdom of God, and the coming of the Son of Man

Greek Commentary for Luke 17:10

Unprofitable [αχρειοι]
The Syriac Sinaitic omits “unprofitable.” The word is common in Greek literature, but in the N.T. only here and Matthew 25:30 where it means “useless” The slave who only does what he is commanded by his master to do has gained no merit or credit. “In point of fact it is not commands, but demands we have to deal with, arising out of special emergencies” (Bruce). The slavish spirit gains no promotion in business life or in the kingdom of God. [source]
Unprofitable [ἀχρεῖοι]
From χρεία , requirement; something which the master must pay. Not useless, but having rendered no service beyond what was due. “The profit does not begin until the servant goes beyond his obligation” (Meyer). “A servant owes all things ” (Bengel). [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Luke 17:10

John 13:14 Ought [ὀφείλετε]
The verb means to owe. It occurs several times in John's Epistles (1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11; 3 John 1:8). In the Gospel only here and John 19:7. Compare Luke 17:10. In Matthew's version of the Lord's prayer occur the two kindred words ὀφείλνμα , debt, and ὀφειλέτης , debtor. Jesus here puts the obligation to ministry as a debt under which His disciples are laid by His ministry to them. The word ought is the past tense of owe. Δεῖ , ought or must (see John 3:7, John 3:14, John 3:30, etc.) expresses an obligation in the nature of things; ὀφείλειν , a special, personal obligation. [source]
Romans 3:12 They are together become unprofitable [αμα ηχρεωτησαν]
First aorist passive indicative of αχρεοω — achreoō Late word in Polybius and Cilician inscription of first century a.d. Some MSS. read ηχρειωτησαν — ēchreiōthēsan from αχρειος — achreios useless (α — a privative and χρειος — chreios useful) as in Luke 17:10; Matthew 25:30, but Westcott and Hort print as above from the rarer spelling αχρεος — achreos Only here in N.T. The Hebrew word means to go bad, become sour like milk (Lightfoot). [source]
Galatians 5:3 A debtor [ὀφειλέτης]
In N.T. mostly of one under moral obligation. So in the sense of sinner, Matthew 6:12; Luke 13:4. Comp. Romans 1:14; Romans 8:12. Similarly the verb ὀφείλειν toowe, as Luke 11:4; Luke 17:10; Romans 15:1, etc., though it is frequent in the literal sense. [source]
Galatians 3:19 Ordained [διαταγεὶς]
The verb means to arrange, appoint, prescribe. Of appointing the twelve, Matthew 11:1; of enjoining certain acts, Luke 8:55; Luke 17:10; 1 Corinthians 7:17; of the decree of Claudius, Acts 18:2. Here, describing the form or mode in which the law was added; the arrangement made for giving it. [source]
Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore [οτεν]
Old relative adverb It behoved him Imperfect active of οπειλω — opheilō old verb to owe, money (Matthew 18:28), service and love (Romans 13:8), duty or obligation as here and often in N.T. (Luke 17:10). Jesus is here the subject and the reference is to the incarnation. Having undertaken the work of redemption (John 3:16), voluntarily (John 10:17), Jesus was under obligation to be properly equipped for that priestly service and sacrifice. In all things Except yielding to sin (Hebrews 4:15) and yet he knew what temptation was, difficult as it may be for us to comprehend that in the Son of God who is also the Son of man (Mark 1:13). Jesus fought through to victory over Satan. To be made like unto his brethren First aorist passive infinitive of ομοιοω — homoioō old and common verb from ομοιος — homoios (like), as in Matthew 6:8, with the associative instrumental case as here. Christ, our Elder Brother, resembles us in reality (Philemon 2:7 “in the likeness of men”) as we shall resemble him in the end (Romans 8:29 “first-born among many brethren”; 1 John 3:2 “like him”), where the same root is used as here That he might be (ινα — hina genētai). Purpose clause with γινομαι — hina and the second aorist middle subjunctive of ελεημων και πιστος αρχιερευς — ginomai to become, “that he might become.” That was only possible by being like his brethren in actual human nature. Merciful and faithful high priest (αρχιερευς — eleēmōn kai pistos archiereus). The sudden use of ελεημων — archiereus here for Jesus has been anticipated by Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 2:9 and see Hebrews 3:1. Jesus as the priest-victim is the chief topic of the Epistle. These two adjectives (πιστος — eleēmōn and τα προς τον τεον — pistos) touch the chief points in the function of the high priest (Hebrews 5:1-10), sympathy and fidelity to God. The Sadducean high priests (Annas and Caiaphas) were political and ecclesiastical tools and puppets out of sympathy with the people and chosen by Rome. In things pertaining to God (τα προς τον τεον — ta pros ton theon). The adverbial accusative of the article is a common idiom. See the very idiom προς — ta pros ton theon in Exodus 18:19; Romans 15:17. This use of εις το ιλασκεσται — pros we had already in Hebrews 1:7. On the day of atonement the high priest entered the holy of holies and officiated in behalf of the people. To make propitiation for (εις το — eis to hilaskesthai). Purpose clause with ιλασκομαι — eis to and the infinitive (common Greek idiom), here present indirect middle of ιλαος — hilaskomai to render propitious to oneself (from ιλεως — hilaos Attic ιλαστητι — hileōs gracious). This idea occurs in the lxx (Psalm 65:3), but only here in N.T., though in Luke 18:13 the passive form (ιλασμος — hilasthēti) occurs as in 2 Kings 5:18. In 1 John 2:2 we have hilasmos used of Christ (cf. Hebrews 7:25). The inscriptions illustrate the meaning in Hebrews 2:17 as well as the lxx. [source]
Hebrews 2:17 It behoved him [ωπειλεν]
Imperfect active of οπειλω — opheilō old verb to owe, money (Matthew 18:28), service and love (Romans 13:8), duty or obligation as here and often in N.T. (Luke 17:10). Jesus is here the subject and the reference is to the incarnation. Having undertaken the work of redemption (John 3:16), voluntarily (John 10:17), Jesus was under obligation to be properly equipped for that priestly service and sacrifice. In all things Except yielding to sin (Hebrews 4:15) and yet he knew what temptation was, difficult as it may be for us to comprehend that in the Son of God who is also the Son of man (Mark 1:13). Jesus fought through to victory over Satan. To be made like unto his brethren First aorist passive infinitive of ομοιοω — homoioō old and common verb from ομοιος — homoios (like), as in Matthew 6:8, with the associative instrumental case as here. Christ, our Elder Brother, resembles us in reality (Philemon 2:7 “in the likeness of men”) as we shall resemble him in the end (Romans 8:29 “first-born among many brethren”; 1 John 3:2 “like him”), where the same root is used as here That he might be (ινα — hina genētai). Purpose clause with γινομαι — hina and the second aorist middle subjunctive of ελεημων και πιστος αρχιερευς — ginomai to become, “that he might become.” That was only possible by being like his brethren in actual human nature. Merciful and faithful high priest (αρχιερευς — eleēmōn kai pistos archiereus). The sudden use of ελεημων — archiereus here for Jesus has been anticipated by Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 2:9 and see Hebrews 3:1. Jesus as the priest-victim is the chief topic of the Epistle. These two adjectives (πιστος — eleēmōn and τα προς τον τεον — pistos) touch the chief points in the function of the high priest (Hebrews 5:1-10), sympathy and fidelity to God. The Sadducean high priests (Annas and Caiaphas) were political and ecclesiastical tools and puppets out of sympathy with the people and chosen by Rome. In things pertaining to God (τα προς τον τεον — ta pros ton theon). The adverbial accusative of the article is a common idiom. See the very idiom προς — ta pros ton theon in Exodus 18:19; Romans 15:17. This use of εις το ιλασκεσται — pros we had already in Hebrews 1:7. On the day of atonement the high priest entered the holy of holies and officiated in behalf of the people. To make propitiation for (εις το — eis to hilaskesthai). Purpose clause with ιλασκομαι — eis to and the infinitive (common Greek idiom), here present indirect middle of ιλαος — hilaskomai to render propitious to oneself (from ιλεως — hilaos Attic ιλαστητι — hileōs gracious). This idea occurs in the lxx (Psalm 65:3), but only here in N.T., though in Luke 18:13 the passive form (ιλασμος — hilasthēti) occurs as in 2 Kings 5:18. In 1 John 2:2 we have hilasmos used of Christ (cf. Hebrews 7:25). The inscriptions illustrate the meaning in Hebrews 2:17 as well as the lxx. [source]
1 John 2:6 Ought [ὀφείλει]
An obligation, put as a debt. See Luke 17:10, and on debts, Matthew 6:12. The word expresses a special, personal obligation, and not as δεῖ mustan obligation in the nature of things. See John 20:9, and compare 1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:11; 3 John 1:8. [source]

What do the individual words in Luke 17:10 mean?

Thus also you when you may have done all the [things] having been commanded you say - Servants unworthy are we that which we were bound to do we have done
οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς ὅταν ποιήσητε πάντα τὰ διαταχθέντα ὑμῖν λέγετε ὅτι Δοῦλοι ἀχρεῖοί ἐσμεν ὠφείλομεν ποιῆσαι πεποιήκαμεν

οὕτως  Thus 
Parse: Adverb
Root: οὕτως  
Sense: in this manner, thus, so.
καὶ  also 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: καί  
Sense: and, also, even, indeed, but.
ποιήσητε  you  may  have  done 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 2nd Person Plural
Root: ποιέω  
Sense: to make.
τὰ  the  [things] 
Parse: Article, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
διαταχθέντα  having  been  commanded 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Participle Passive, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root: διατάσσω  
Sense: to arrange, appoint, ordain, prescribe, give order.
λέγετε  say 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Active, 2nd Person Plural
Root: λέγω 
Sense: to say, to speak.
ὅτι  - 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ὅτι  
Sense: that, because, since.
Δοῦλοι  Servants 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: δοῦλοσ1 
Sense: a slave, bondman, man of servile condition.
ἀχρεῖοί  unworthy 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Plural
Root: ἀχρεῖος  
Sense: useless, good for nothing.
ἐσμεν  are  we 
Parse: Verb, Present Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: εἰμί  
Sense: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
  that  which 
Parse: Personal / Relative Pronoun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: ὅς 
Sense: who, which, what, that.
ὠφείλομεν  we  were  bound 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: ὀφείλω  
Sense: to owe.
ποιῆσαι  to  do 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Infinitive Active
Root: ποιέω  
Sense: to make.
πεποιήκαμεν  we  have  done 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Active, 1st Person Plural
Root: ποιέω  
Sense: to make.