When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! — Luke 14:7-9
When I was with Prison Fellowship Ministries in the late 1990’s, we hosted a political banquet in Santa Fe, NM. We had invited the Governor, Lt. Governor, all of the State Senators, Representatives, Correction Department officials and the various Prison Wardens and Chaplains to attend. I assure you there was no lack of egos in that large group. Since the Legislature was in session, we weren’t sure who would be able to attend (they weren’t either) because both chambers had to adjourn their sessions to get to the luncheon.
Our head table arrangement was “ify” at best, depending on who showed up. We got late word that the Governor and Lt. Governor and one of the majority leaders wouldn’t make it, so we began to fill up the head table according to the next in rank. Then—it happened. The Governor came in late and there was no place at the head table for him to sit. Guess what? Somebody had to move. All the other tables for the rank and file were almost filled up so the odd man out at the head table ended up sitting in the back next to me. He wasn’t a happy camper!
In the eyes of men, there will always be those who are deemed as more distinguished or more important than we are. It may be based on money, position, influence, prestige or reputation. But I have found that no matter how much of a “big shot” we may think we are, there will always be someone who’s a “bigger shot.” And in the eyes of men, I suppose there will always be those who are treated as less distinguished—using the same criteria.
Jesus tells us, however, in this parable (Luke 14:1-11), that if we approach our life and whatever position we may have with humility—realizing that it’s God that raises one man up and puts another man down (Psalm 75:7), we can avoid the embarrassment and humiliation that comes when we take our place in life too seriously and value ourselves more highly that we ought (Romans 12:3).
Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley, the author of the best selling novel Roots, has a picture in his office showing a turtle sitting atop a fence post. He says, “The picture is there to remind me of a lesson I learned long ago. If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it had to have some help getting there.” Alex adds, “Any time I start thinking, Wow, isn’t this marvelous what I’ve done! I look at that picture and remember how this turtle—me—got up on that post.” That kind of humble attitude, my friends, will get you honored every time. Maranatha!
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
— James 4:10
To help us walk closer with God and to know Him better