Servile, Surly, and Untractable Servants

Another exercise in chance & providence, I again closed my eyes, opened my Bible, and pointed to a verse. The result:

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond. Proverbs 29:19

Do you know anyone like this? They go to work, but they just don’t give it their all. They make mistakes, and when their masters (today we call this “management”) reprove them, their behavior does not change. “In one ear and out the other,” we may say.

This isn’t indicative of all servants, of course, as the centurion’s servants exemplify in Matthew 8:9. He says “jump” and they respond “how high,” so to speak.

There may be any number of reasons why servants fail to respond to their masters — both in ancient Israel as well as in today’s society. Bible commentator John Gill describes such servants as being “of a servile, surly, and untractable disposition.”

In other words, such servants are simply unmanageable; they are too hardheaded, self-centered, or just plain brutish ((That’s a fancy Bible word meaning “stupid.”)) to take the correction and apply it to their lives.

What I’ve read about this verse since looking it up a short while ago would seem to limit its implications to a “work environment,” and that of ancient Israel rather than today.

I think the verse is a bit more applicable to us, though, than perhaps I would like it to be.

Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, 8knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. Ephesians 5:9

How ought slaves to behave toward their masters? Just as servants of Christ behave toward Him.

Looking back at our verse from Proverbs, then… Do you claim to be a servant of Christ? ((He is the only God worth serving.))

If you responded positively, then you must ask yourself: Are the words of your Master as recorded in the Scriptures sufficient to discipline you?

Given what He has said concerning love, hospitality, generosity, control of speech, evangelism, sexual immorality, stewardship, and so much else… Are His words sufficient to discipline you?

Or are you, like me, so often far more akin to the brutish servant, hearing and understanding our Masters words yet in practice ignoring or even denying them.

May we all pray to be more obedient to the ways of our Lord, not for obedience’s sake, but out of love for His words, confidently knowing that He has first loved us.

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