TWENTY-THIRD IN MY TEACHING SERIES ON THE PARABLES OF JESUS
The Parable of the Invited Guests
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “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. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 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 the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Humiliation, Or Humility?
Jesus makes it clear in this parable that seeking honor is not reflective of one who is seeking to live as Christ. Can you imagine what it must have felt like to when the presumptuous one was instructed to get up and head to the last seat? I imagine those were very painful steps.
How much different it is if the guest takes the last seat at the beginning. Then the host will tell that humble one to move up to a higher seat, honoring him before everyone. Key to this parable is when Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” He is not saying that we should “demote” ourselves so others see our contrived humility. Rather, He instructs us to have the heart of a servant, desiring that the other guests have the better seats. And if the host chooses to move us to the front, that’s great. If not, we’ve very content sitting where we are. Jesus is stating that honor is not to be seized; it is awarded.
Hospitable To All
Jesus expands the picture of humility by exhorting his audience to invite to their dinner table the needy and those who cannot repay such kindness. In Bible times, the one who hosted a large meal would be placed on the invitation list for future meals at the guests’ homes. Jesus argues that such “payback” hospitality has no merit. The best hospitality is given, not merely exchanged in a kind of unspoken social contract.
It is so counter-intuitive to us as “civilized” human beings to think that less is more. That a heart willing to be last could actually end up in first. But that is exactly what Jesus was trying to illustrate in this parable.
If I’m totally transparent, there have been times in my life where I sought to promote myself in hopes of gaining some sort of praise – albeit a job promotion, pay increase, award, or merely just the favor of someone who offered some advantage to me.
God, break me of my bent to exalt myself. Give me more of Your heart, and the desire to elevate others and to genuinely be okay with the back seat. Amen.
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