Read This Week: Luke 14
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. 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.” – Luke 14:7-11 NIV
It is difficult for us to seek the lowest place in most settings. It goes against our fallen human nature to submit ourselves to humility so that we can think of others first. We do not naturally come in low, even if introversion, shyness, or reservation is our personality. Our flesh seeks the highest place, and we have to make a concerted effort not to want exaltation in our relationships, families, work, and church community. As the Christian organization, I Am Second, says in their mission statement: “declaring oneself second isn’t natural.”
Jesus knew this and addressed the topic of self-exultation versus humility in Luke 14 when he noticed how so many people sought out the places of honor and position at the Pharisee’s house. He noticed the natural tendencies of people to elevate themselves in both advantageous and trivial situations. He observed a clamoring not only for status but significance. That is why he said in verse 10:
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.
The Lord was teaching them and us to allow the Holy Spirit to help against our natural tendencies, shortcomings, and essence. To emulate the character of Christ in taking the lowest position even though He alone was worthy of the highest place. To allow the Lord and others to upgrade or raise us up and not to clamor for it ourselves.
He specifically says that if we get caught up in self-exultation, humility will come to us in ways we do not expect or want. But, if we are humble and submit to God’s process of humility, celebration and success will come to us in ways we do not anticipate. Jesus says in verse 11:
For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
We all have a desire to feel important or significant, which is why we fight so hard to find our place of honor. Everyone wants to be noticed and included, but we can’t make it our life’s goal to achieve that status, and we certainly can’t do it at the expense of others.
We must constantly seek humility and deference to other people because this is a posture and attitude that most resembles the person of Christ. We must desire to come in second. It is the place that honors the Lord in an environment and society obsessed with looking out for number one. Second is the place in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, and playgrounds that points to a power outside ourselves. It is the place where glorification will ultimately be a reality, even if it is beyond this life.
The same person who taught us about humility in this passage is the same One that Philippians 2:6-8 describes as the supreme example of humility and why there is eternal benefit to coming in second:
Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death!