14th Sunday after Pentecost
September 2, 2007
Save my Seat!
Pride — is there a more dangerous and subtle sin? It’s a sin that we often overlook in our self-righteousness. In our eyes it pales in comparison to the more detestable sins — drunkenness, drug addiction, fornication, adultery, murder. Yet pride is the root of all sin.
Some may respond AAt least I’m not a thief, while stealing the joy of those around them with there legalistic standards. Others may say AAt least I’m not a murder, yet they destroy the lives of there loved ones, cutting them with words in order to feel better about themselves. Still others may say “At least I’m not an adulterer,” yet they play the harlot, seeking satisfaction in there possessions and achievements.
To them the apostle James shares some words: “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? . . . Submit therefore to God . . . . Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”
I once heard it said that AOur job is to humble ourselves, and God’s job is to exalt us. If we start doing His job, He’ll start doing ours. Jesus said it like this: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).
God can see beyond our exteriors. He sees when we=re attempting to puff ourselves up instead of finding significance and satisfaction in Him. Pride says to God and man: “I know better than You, because I am better than You.” And it’s reflected in our self-inflating pursuits, just as it was in the actions of the guests that Jesus spoke to in our text today.
I. Musical chairs (v. 7)
When I was a child we often played musical chairs. To play this game a number of chairs — one less than the participants — are placed in a circle facing outward. Everyone begins walking around the chairs while music is played. The object of the game is to find yourself a chair as soon as the music stops because the one left standing is out of the game. It’s everyone for himself in this game which sometimes ends up becoming a full-contact sport.
When I read this verse, I can almost imagine the guests playing musical chairs. Except this time the object of the game is to find the best seat before the feast begins. Because in their eyes, the one not sitting in a place of prominence is out! So as soon as they get there, they scramble to the head table to sit next to the host. In this culture the closer the invited guests were to the host, the more prominent their position.
Jesus noticed this disturbing behavior and began sharing with the guests.
II. Don’t think too highly of yourselves (vv. 8-9)
Often after a first read through a text I step back and think to myself, how could they be so foolish? But it’s usually not long before the Spirit brings to mind instances in my life that are very similar to those I read about. So it was with these verses.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve attempted to inflate my position before God and men. Even in ministry it’s easy to tell ourselves that we=re a great asset to God, and it would definitely be to His advantage to place us in the lime light.
Oh how the words of Jesus cut to the heart. It’s better that we listen when we read than to learn when we’re disciplined for our disobedience. In His parable, Jesus reminds the guests that they might not be as important as they think, and they ought not be quick to puff themselves up. Because if they do, the host may have to put them back in their places. We, too, shouldn’t think more highly of ourselves than God does, for “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5).
III. God does the exalting — not us (vv. 10-11)
Jesus goes on telling the guests “But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place” (v. 10). The last place! What do you mean, the last place? That’s what I imagine the response to be of many listening to Jesus then and now.
Do you ever hear compliments to others subtly interrupted by another listening in who thinks he or she didn=t get due credit? Yeah, Joe did a great job didn’t he? He asked me what I thought he should do and we came up with this together.How we despise the thought of others getting recognition we think we deserve.
Why is that? It’s because our significance isn’t found in God. Instead we look to success or other people to tell us how fantastic we are. But God’s ways are so much higher than ours. And He can lift us higher than anyone or anything! Our job is to humble ourselves because humility reveals to us who we really are. Humility brings to our attention our desperate need for God to live in and through us.
When we humble ourselves God becomes very big in our eyes. He then becomes very big in our prayers and in our faith. God exalts us because He loves to bless His children, and because we can handle and enjoy the exaltation as He intended. In turn, our lives exalt the Exalter. (Jonathan Kever)