“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher’. Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 14:8-11 NKJV
At some point in my walk with the Lord I took this parable very much to heart. There are many more scriptures in the Bible that drive home the importance of humility, service and considering others better and higher than yourselves. We don’t want to be like one of those silly disciples in the Bible that bickered amongst themselves trying to jockey for position and pressuring Jesus to make a choice and tell which of them was the greatest. Yet, somehow I still manage to mess this up from time to time.
This parable paints a beautiful picture of this man who humbles himself, takes the last seat, and then the inviter comes along seeing this man’s worth/gifts/talent/value in his life and invites him to take a higher seat, thus giving him attention and recognition to all who are present that he is important and special. Sounds like unicorns and rainbows to me. My middle-class upbringing has taught me that I can get anywhere and achieve anything by making good choices and working hard. That has tended to influence how I approach goal-setting and achieving success. Do the right things and all you are seeking will fall into your lap.
Okay, I know how to play this game. I can follow these rules. I stay in the shadows, don’t draw attention to myself, don’t sound the trumpets when I do good deeds or when I am giving of my time/money/talents. At some point, someone will recognize what I have to offer, find me valuable and worthy and elevate me. Don’t seek out to be elevated yourself, wait for your gifts to make room for you, and in God’s time He will send a person who will raise you up to a new level of leadership/position/place of honor. These are my religious checklist items.
The difficult part of this process, then, seems like the wait and trusting that it will all eventually happen. But the expectation, at least for me, is that it WILL happen. What if, though, I am doing all the right, humble-looking things but my heart betrays me because in my mind I believe I am deserving of the honored place? Is that true humility? I deceive myself, not only because I think highly of myself but also because I think I’m a vision of humility all the while. What if I’m not deserving? What if I am waiting for something that’s destined not to happen because I’m really just not ready? What if all my striving is for naught? What if no one is actually coming to elevate me, but since I expect that I am entitled to it I grow bitter in the wait?
So many people like me get to this point in the wait and are tempted to throw in the towel, believing they have been passed over by those around them who haven’t tuned into the Holy Spirit and given us our due. Let’s face it: None of us wants to believe we are deserving of the very last, least honored position in any area. That is such a gut-punch to our pride. It hurts so bad to have to consider I am last in some areas. It’s not enough to play the game of looking humble (that’s the very definition of religion) and I’m certainly no quitter, but I’m done with this facade of humility. I can’t live in this state, so I have to change my thinking.
I need God’s help to teach me how to truly be humble, not just look like it. It starts by realizing I am only at this party because Jesus paid a hefty price so that I might be allowed in. I am absolutely not deserving of anything but death based on my once sinful nature and a slew of poor choices that prove my rebelliousness against God. I should stop worrying so much about what seat I occupy and be overwhelmingly grateful I have a seat at all. Thank you, Jesus. I can trust that God has already seen me in my finished, glorified state and He knows I’ll get there. I just have to keep walking my life out in this natural realm, and stay on His path. I need to be content in the seat I’m in, for however long I’m in it. In fact, if I never get to move higher in the pecking order, I can find the utmost joy being a simple “doorkeeper in the house of my God.”
The greatest men in the sight of the Lord were all bondservants and slaves to Christ. How can I expect any more grandeur than that when all my being desperately longs to be a true and faithful disciple of the Way? I pray that it is starting to sink in for me that to be the greatest in the kingdom is to become least.