No one likes hearing others talk about themselves too much ... we are usually waiting for them to stop so we can start talking about ourselves. Maybe it is something we learn in our first 5 years and never quite grow out of.
It is so easy to jockey for position as we approach the check out lines at Walmart. You look to determine if you can make it to the line before the lady with 2 full carts and coupons falling out of her pockets.
Parking lot management fits in here too. Remember Black Friday? Did you try to park the car in front of a store?
We had floor "seats" at the U2 concert. Just 10 people back from Bono on the stage. Great place to stand. But there were these "jerks" that kept jockeying for position, trying to get closer to the stage. There we were, waiting for 6 hours to be able to stand this close and these guys kept taking the better position. Truthfully, I would have done the same if it weren't for the social pressure. I wanted to be right at the stage.
All of these scenarios have something in common ....
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Great story. Very clear picture. Can you see yourself wanting the best seat in the house? Can you feel the tension? I can. This is a great story that captures the heart.
Jesus noticed how everyone went for their seats. This tells me it is a common problem that affects most everyone. We like to look out for ourselves for fear someone might get one up on us.
Most of what I do involves the Governor and his office, city/county mayors and council folks. I am in meetings with these folks most every week. Many times one of our Congressmen will also be in attendance. You can always tell when they enter the room as the noise settles down, heads turn in one direction and the cameras click, click, click away.
I am usually careful where I sit. It is so easy to make a mistake in one of these events ... to do the classic social blunder. This can come in many forms: sitting at a reserved table, talking Republican politics to a Democrat or picking up someone else's tea, bread or napkin.
Everyone wants to be near the Governor or mayor and will position themselves to those seats. But one must be careful, evaluate themselves properly and choose a seat that is equal to his/her station.
For Jesus it is much more simple, the guest should choose to sit in the "lowest place". This could even be a reference to the "lowest room" where the servants were. It would be like choosing a seat in the lower decks on the Titanic or getting the table next to the double kitchen doors.
Jesus commands his hearers to take the lowest place. Not in some false humility but in a true recognition that there might be others that are more important than you in the meeting. Please note that the view of who is important or not is from the host's perspective not the guests. You or I might not esteem someone highly, assume we are of more value but it is the view of the host that matters. We must always assume that he views others as more important than us.
If we choose the lower place seats and get left there than we have chosen wisely. If we are elevated by the host then we are honored properly. The word "honored" is the word for, glory or "weightiness of presence".
The final thing worth noting is that God is the ultimate Host. He is looking for us to take the lowest place and to be humble. He is looking for those He can elevate and give honor to. He obviously cannot and will not raise us if we are already raising ourselves up.
So, what do we do with this?
1. Start with God. He is the Lord. He is Creator. He is God. He is the ultimate Host. If we are going to be humble we are going to need to have a high view of God. I'd recommend reading AW Tozer: the Knowledge of the Holy or Francis Chan: Crazy Love to gain perspective.
2. Work on you. Life is about choices. Recognize others as more important than yourself. Do not look out only for your own interests but also the interests of others. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may lift you up in the right time.
3. Choose the lower place ... always. Don't you want the honor of God more than men's empty praise? If Tiger Woods has proven anything this week, you can have a billion dollars and all the praise of the world and still be unfulfilled! You can have it all and be empty! Only God is going to fill that hole. Even if you get elevated to the best seat at the table it is still temporary and unfulfilling as soon as it is over! Only God can meet our deepest needs. We need Him to lift us up. Let's choose to out serve our spouses at home. Let's choose to out serve at church. Let's choose the lower place. Let's humble ourselves and let God lift us up.
Next time you go to Walmart, think about this as you park, shop and check out. Choose the lower place. Walk from the farthest parking spot. Wait patiently in line. No one else may notice but the ultimate Host just might and that is what really matters.
DevoLink: Devotions to help you Link with God.