Best of Daily Reflections: A Call to Humility
“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
This passage from Luke 14 reminds me of what it’s like to travel on commercial flights. Little in life is more stratified according to layers of honor. While I’m waiting for the gatekeeper to call my seating group, I watch all the important people go first: First Class, Platinum Flyers, Gold Flyers, Silver Flyers, Group 1, and so forth and so on. Finally, they get to Tin Flyers, and I get to board the plane. But, on the way to my tiny seat in economy class, I pass through first class, where I see all the movers and shakers enjoying their overstuffed lounge chair seats, sipping their complimentary beverages while scowling at me for delaying the plane’s departure. Can you imagine how embarrassed I would be if I tried to sit in an empty first class seat, only to be told in no uncertain terms that I was not welcome among the rich and famous flyers? Ugh!
Jesus envisioned a similar situation, one that fit his own cultural milieu. Suppose, he said, you attend a wedding feast and sit in a seat at the head table. How will you feel when you are unceremoniously booted from your seat of honor? To be safe, Jesus advised, “take the lowest place at the foot of the table” (14:10). Then, you might very well be promoted to a better seat.
What point was Jesus trying to make? He summed it up in verse 11: “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Jesus was thinking of more than a wedding here. He was using the wedding analogy to communicate something about the kingdom of God. It would be a topsy-turvy kingdom, one in which the “first class flyers” would be sent to “economy class” while the lowly would be lifted up.
You could hear Jesus’ statement as a word of rebuke, especially if you tend to seek your own position and glory. Yet, you could also hear this as a word of invitation to a better and freer way of living. Just think about how you might feel and act if you were no longer preoccupied with your own position and reputation. How much richer your life would be if you were free to serve others rather than seek their praise. To be sure, the wisdom of Jesus contradicts the ethos of our culture, whether we thinking about sports, politics, business, or even the church. Yet if we seek to live as citizens of the kingdom of God, we will be so devoted to God’s glory that we’ll forget about our own.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you ever experienced something like Jesus describes in Luke 14: 7-11? Are you tempted to exalt yourself? When? Why? What helps you to humble yourself? How might you live out the counter-cultural values of the kingdom in your work today?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for this teaching about humility. I need it! As you know, there is something in me that yearns to be recognized by others. I want the seat of honor because it reassures me of my value. Yet, the more I find my true worth in you, the more I am set free to humble myself, to be a servant of others. Help me, dear Lord, to live with this kind of freedom.
To you be all the glory! Amen.