“But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:10-11 NKJV).
When I handed in my boarding pass to go onto the airplane in Doha, Qatar, on my most recent flight, I was told to wait a moment. The agent went to the counter, exchanged my economy pass for a business class seat and returned to give it to me. Having completed a 15 hour flight from Dallas to Doha and an 8 hour layover in the airport, to say that I was happy is a great understatement. Though the flight to Katmandu would only last a third as long as that from the U.S., any time spent in business class rather than economy is happy time!
When one considers it, there are not many situations where an upgrade is not good news. We all enjoy sales where a higher quality item may be purchased for the price of the bargain model. We gladly move up to the better seats in stadiums and theaters when given the opportunity. Better is just, well, better. And we all prefer that when possible.
On the other hand, to be asked to move down in class is disappointing and also humiliating. In the parable cited at the beginning of this article, Jesus first advised his listeners, “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest some more honorable than you be invited by him, and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place” (Luke 14:8-9).
Not only might such a guest be proven unworthy of the exalted place he claimed, he might also forfeit his right to a position of moderate status and have to go to the end of the table because all other places are already taken.
No venue in life offers a greater upgrade than faith in Jesus Christ. That might best be illustrated by another parable from Luke 16. There Jesus told of a beggar who spent his hours at the gate of a rich man, begging for scraps from his table. But upon his death, that same beggar whose name was Lazarus was found to be in Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:19-31).
That expression, “Abraham’s bosom” refers to the ancient practice of reclining on the floor around a low table at a meal. This position meant that each diner rested almost against the next person’s shoulder or chest – i.e., “in his bosom.” The Jews identified the coming of God’s kingdom as a great feast (Luke 14:15). At that feast the most honored guest, serving as de facto host, would be Abraham. Jesus’ parable depicts Lazarus, the former poor beggar, as the next most honored guest, seated at the right hand of the patriarch of Israel.
In this life we might never achieve wealth, comfort, or prestige. We might never become famous or receive honors. In fact, we may have poor health, meager circumstances, and much suffering and trouble. But if we trust in Christ we are assured of great blessings, both in this life and in that which is to come.
“So he said to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age to come, eternal life'” (Luke 18:29-30). That is indeed the ultimate upgrade.