Stories of the Kingdom from Luke: Nobody Owes Me Anything

May 14, 2024 | by Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee

Stories of the Kingdom from Luke:

Nobody Owes Me Anything

Scripture: Luke 17:7-10

Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee

Spiritual Life Officer - USA Southern Territory

Unworthy Servant

In one of the lesser known and least popular of Jesus’ parables, He shared a scene his hearers would readily know.  “When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. In the same way, when you obey Me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty’” (Luke 17:7-10).

Books addressing how to get the most from staff members would definitely not make reference to this teaching. Nor would any etiquette books. Not say thank you? Not express appreciation? Strange indeed.

The Danger of Entitlement

Jesus was not advocating rudeness or lack of appreciation. He was warning against the sense of entitlement.  It comes when we confuse justice with self-interest, healthy competition with obsessive comparison of ourselves to other people and an advertising industry that merges biblical standards of self love and protection, blaring instead the message, “You owe it to yourself”.

Christians are as susceptible as anyone else. The culture is the aquarium in which we swim. It is easy for some of the messages to get through. A casual browsing of Christian books and sermon series reveals a huge emphasis on self-satisfaction and serving our own needs. Psycho babble is not limited to afternoon talk shows or vicious scheming only something for reality TV.

The message of the age is: “What matters to me is most important. If it doesn’t serve me, if you don’t serve me, then I will move on without you. You owe me.” People demand their own way resulting in road rage and assaults; personal happiness is paramount, leading to addictions and disposable relationships; a person’s world is ascendant over all the stars in the universe as people kneel before an idol that is a perfect representation of themselves.

Nobody Owes Me Anything

This parable runs counter to that. Those living for and following Christ are not to keep a tally sheet of who owes what to whom, where the seat of honor is or who noticed a blatant act of humility. Like anyone else, we appreciate being appreciated but that is not as an end in itself. We will want things at times, including jobs or even awards.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t be disappointed when we hoped for does not happen. But honesty forces us to admit that much of what we wanted or thought should happen was our own invention. Nobody owes me what I conjured up for myself. That promotion, that award was never promised. If I think I should have had an easier life, I find that I search the Scriptures in vain to discover any promise that would lead me to think that success, popularity, wealth or even health are owed to me.

You don’t owe me a compliment. You don’t owe me your parking space nor do the traffic engineers owe me green lights when I drive. Nobody owes me a pat on the head because I did my job. I shouldn’t expect a yard free of crabgrass or blood pressure that is always 120/80.

When this sobering reality sets in I discover every kindness is a gift, every thoughtful expression a ray of sunshine. When expectations are reeled in I do not sulk for the imagined prize I should have received or long for the easy life that someone else seems to have. While I might not like the medications, I realize that past generations could not have imagined the health opportunities I enjoy. Realizing that I am not owed anything puts things into perspective. It helps me find again the security of my own limits, the grounding that comes from affirming my foundations.

It leads me to another realization.

If no one owes me anything,

then it means I don’t owe

anyone else anything.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​That sounds bad at first. Really terrible. But sanctified by the Spirit of God it means - 

  • When I love someone, it is not some slavish need to be needed but loving that person with my own freewill.
  • When I commit to someone, as I did my wife, on any given day I can walk away. Instead, every single day I choose to stay. An easy choice, admittedly, but a choice nonetheless.
  • I can choose to love anyone. They don't have to be pretty, and they don't have to be beneficial to my long range goals. If I am not looking for what they can do for me then they don't have to to like me or even want to be around me. Others can persecute me but I am free to respond in love.
  • It means that I can constantly choose to give gifts. I don't compliment someone only because it is polite but because I choose to acknowledge them.

​​​​​​​Despite what the songs say love is not some sick, mindless thing. I don’t love someone because I can’t help myself. My mind actively engages with my heart to choose to love. This love intelligently decides to sacrifice for another, to help another person grow into what that person can be instead of a vessel to correct all the mistakes I have made along the way.

If no one owes me anything

and I don’t owe anyone anything,

then God doesn’t owe me anything.


We live in a world blessed by common grace, what Jesus was talking about when He said, “For He (God) gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike” (Matthew 5:45). For example, no matter your state of health there is more functioning in your body than is not. Think of what we possess in greater or lesser measure: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell. Even in the most profoundly retarded person the brain accomplishes incredibly complex acts. We are the only ones of God’s creations that can think about thinking. At any given moment, you are a veritable Olympics of miracles, each one vying to outdo the other.

We cannot forget what exists around us. The sunshine, the air, the beauty, and complexity of nature. That little patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street is a world in itself with creatures, drama, life and death. We dare not consider the wonders of electricity, flight, astronomy, microbiology or the rest of creation.Not one of these gifts is owed to us. But because of common grace God has provided all this and more simply because we are a member of the human race. With all this abundance of gifts, we are rich beyond measure.

God does not owe me anything. How foolish for people to shake their fist at Heaven because they think God should put aside His universe, ignore the rest of humanity and swoop in like a cosmic Superman so they can have their way? How wrong is it to think that because I am me there should be exceptions made to the rules, divine compensation for my shortsightedness, infinite grace shown to me by other people while I need not demonstrate indulgence for their weaknesses?

God owes us nothing. He never has needed me to run His universe nor will He. If the world, including me with it, disappeared in a sheet of flame tomorrow, He would be no less God Almighty than He is right now.

Yet in God’s sight we are not castaways, expendable or unwanted. He fancies us something more. We are not owed grace but He gives grace. It reaches, reaches, reaches like a great rope to rescue us from a sea of hopelessness. When we are struck with how deeply we have offended God we begin to have an idea of how wonderful that grace is. God does not owe me anything but He chooses to be present with me, to guide, sustain and give my life meaning. I can speak confidently enough about His grace to say to you in this moment with utter certainty: God loves you.

Nobody owes me anything

Because of that it means I can be grateful for everything. I need not mourn the loss of what I never had. When I lose something precious, I remember that gift was not owed to me. I can trust His love, treasure what was precious, savoring the good times that were just that. As I mourn I have the blessing of memory. I can touch her hand again, hear his voice and recall a laugh or the warmth of a hug. I can be grateful for what I had my gift as long as I did.

Because no one owes me anything I rejoice because God chose to love and be present with me today. Those who knew I would be at work chose to come to work anyway. My wife woke up next to me this morning and decided that she is going to stay. I got to choose to love God, love my family and to be with the other people in my life.

Nobody owes me anything. I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Our Corporate Prayer

Dear Father, Sometimes I have talked about grace or sung about Your amazing grace in a halfhearted fashion. But when I think about how You owe me nothing, absolutely nothing, and I owe You everything, starting with the beat of my heart right now and the air in my lungs, I want to stop and say thank You. All the people You have placed in my life, all the beauty I see all the time and even the problems You have given me to wrestle with have shown me that You love and care about me. Thank You. Help me to remember more often and to thank You more sincerely. I want to stop for a minute so You can see what my words can't say. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Our Worldwide Prayer Meeting
Hong Kong and Macau Territory

Thinking It Through

Do you ever feel yourself slipping into a sense of entitlement? How does that fit what Jesus said? What's the difference between our legitimate rights and being selfish?

Notable Quotable

I have no claim on grace;
I have no right to plea
I stand before my Maker's face,
Condemned in word and deed.
But since there died a Lamb
Who, guiltless, my guilt bore,
I lay fast hold of Jesus' name
And sin is mine no more.

- General Albert Osborn


It seems appropriate to use Chris Tomlin's version of "Amazing Grace, My Chains Are Gone" with the lyrics. God bless you.



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Lt. Colonel Allen Satterlee
Territorial Spiritual Life Development Officer/THQ Chaplain
USA Southern Territory

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