Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” – Luke 14:7-14
The girl on the school bus – way back when I was in 6th grade – said, “You’re cute.” Two thoughts came immediately to mind. One was, I knew she was lying. I didn’t believe she thought I was cute. The other thought…WOW! That’s a whole lot better than my mom telling me I’m cute. Mom is supposed to say that. A pretty sixth-grade girl…well I could only hope.
The other issue in receiving praise has to do with when the reward comes. It’s one thing for a sixth grade girl to tell me that I’m cute. It’s quite another to gain the attention of a beautiful young woman I met in my college years who ultimately became my wife. That reward was well worth waiting for!
Contrast that with the boy who struts and shows off when he’s in junior high and high school. He may get the girl then, and if he continues to gain attention by that means it’s very likely that the relationships will be a string of thrills that all too quickly fade.
Jesus speaks of an even deeper need and reward even than the best marriage on earth can provide. And to gain his attention we had better not think of strutting your stuff. Jesus will not be impressed! We will never gain attention or notoriety before God by appearing to be religious or super-spiritual.
The most Christlike Jesus follower will choose the lowest seat, the place out of the limelight, an attitude of humility. And even though Jesus tells his disciples not to choose the places of honor for fear of being outed when their hubris is uncovered, that’s not the the reason to remain humble. The real reason for being humble is that Jesus gave us the example, the command, and the promise to those who live a humble life.
You may be one of those beauty queens, or star athletes who managed to attracted a lot of attention in your early years. You may still try to strut your stuff. Sadly, though, people who strut their stuff soon become the subject of behind-their-back slurs and laughs. It’s not too late, however, to seek the seat of humility. It’s not too late to leave the limelight behind.
Sometimes that requires a degree of faith that looks far beyond this life to the life of the world to come. Sometimes it requires a faith that trusts God in the face of evidence that you are not favored by God. Remember, in those moments, that Jesus says that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.