Learning humility

“Then when Jesus noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. He said to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor because a person more distinguished than you may have been invited by your host. So the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then, ashamed, you will begin to move to the least important place. But when you are invited, go and take the least important place, so that when your host approaches he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up here to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who share the meal with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11 NET)

Humility. So easy to see yet so difficult to practice.

What is humility? Here is a dictionary definition: “the quality of having a modest or low view of one’s importance” (Oxford Dictionary of English). I think we can understand that. Humility is when we realise that we are not the most important person and we act accordingly.

What Jesus observed at a dinner he attended was the opposite of humility. At these dinners, and at many formal dinners today, there was a seating order and a place of honour. The place of honour was to be sitting beside the host. What Jesus observed was that many were seating themselves in the place of honour without being invited to do so. Can you imagine at a wedding dinner someone deciding that he would sit at the head table in place of the bridal party or the couple’s family?

Jesus warned against taking the place of honour. The problem is that this distinguished seat may have been reserved for someone more important than you. Then what would happen? You would be asked to take a lower seat and by that time the only seat that may be left is the least important place. You would be humiliated. 

Instead Jesus advised that when you come into a dinner to take the least important seat automatically. Perhaps then the host would see you and ask you to move to a better seat. In this way you would be honoured by all present.

Those who humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Such a true statement which we still see being played out in our society today. How many people automatically assume that the best is for them? Or that they are the most important? And how often are they humiliated when someone more important is there?

Perhaps in many ways this is a human trait shared by everyone. All people, generally, like to be recognised. And there is nothing wrong with receiving recognition for something that we have done well. “Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness in honoring one another” the apostle wrote to Christians in Rome (Romans 12:10). But notice that idea here: it isn’t about trying to get others to honour us but it is our being devoted to others to the extent that we are ‘eager’ to honour them.

If we could learn this way of thinking different, of thinking like Jesus, everyone would be receiving the recognition they deserved.

So who is it that we need to recognise for the service they have given to us or to someone else? Be seeking ways to honour them rather than seeking the honour for ourselves. This is worth thinking about.

Image by Gerd Altmann from pixabay.com

Readings for next week: Luke 12-16

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