Christ we find that often the homeliest of examples carries the deepest of
Luk 14:1-14 NIV
Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was
being carefully watched. (2) There in front
of him was a man suffering from dropsy. (3)
Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on
the Sabbath or not?" (4) But they
remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. (5) Then he asked them, "If one of you has a
son or an ox that falls into a
well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" (6) And they had nothing to say. (7) When he noticed how the guests picked the places
of honor at the table, he told them this parable: (8)
"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. (9) If so, the host who invited both of you will
come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have
to take the least important place. (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 your fellow guests. (11)
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself
will be exalted." (12) Then Jesus said
to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your
friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they
may invite you back and so you will be repaid. (13)
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the
blind, (14) and you will be blessed. Although
they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the
understand this passage we need to know something about the culture of the
most important guests were seated at the table nearest the kitchen. As
the food was served, they got first choice. (Ever picked the cashews out
of the nut mix?)
were more common in those days, as it was a good way of using up the whole
cow (no refrigeration).
the cook had things prepared, the servants would be sent out to summon the
guests. We’d give a time instead.
you think social structure is unimportant today, give a wedding reception.
is against this background that Christ delivers his lesson on humility. We
must first investigate just what humility means, however.
is, at root, honesty with yourself. If you happen to be a rocket scientist, saying
that you’re really dumb is not humility – it’s dishonesty. The baseline trick
seems to be this:
Use the same
yardstick to measure you and others. If you’re lenient with yourself about
some particular behavior, don’t be strict with others. Hypocrisy is not
If the facts are,
for example, that you are smarter than the average human, treat that as a fact
– not as pride. After all, where did you get your native intelligence? Are
not your achievements a reflection of what God has led you and permitted you to
course, this is not particularly popular today. We teach our athletes (and
other role models) to “trash talk.” Arrogance is now seen as an important
virtue. It may be fashionable; it is not right. The truth in ethics is not
found in fashion magazines.
are two things, though, that we can attribute to successful humility.
Humility leads to
the pure heart – which enables us to see God.
Humility leads to
a gentle spirit. How so? Think of it this way: are most of your arguments
started by your pride? A gentle spirit needs no such; and humility displaces
of the curious results of humility is the change in those with whom you
associate. For those climbing the corporate ladder it is important to
associate with the right people, in the right way. It’s OK to know the mail
room staff, in a condescending way. But you don’t want to play basketball with
them; you want to go golfing with the executives instead.
applies to banquets and dinners as well. The climber will carefully construct
his guest list; the humble man will do the same. It’s just that they have
different criteria. The climber invites those who can help him succeed; the
humble invite those they can help. This can cause interesting results, for
some of those people are genuinely those who don’t fit in.
Linda, a city near us, has the highest per capita income of any city in
America. The city’s motto is, “Land of Gracious Living.” The important thing
is to live in a particular style, it seems.
I might bore you with a repeated story (front page of the web site www.becomingcloser.org):
had a friend whose life was not “gracious living.” One night my wife was on
the phone with her, and our friend mentioned that she would not be eating
tonight, as her Social Security check would not arrive for another two or three
days. My wife offered to bring something over to her (the lady does not
drive), an offer refuses as being too much trouble. My wife replied that this
was no problem, as she would simply bring over some “leftovers from ours.”
remember this night because of that. The kids and I heard it differently: not
“leftovers from ours” but (cue the science fiction music) “Leftovers From
Mars.” The kids and I had a lot of fun with that; but wherever you get your
leftovers, share them.
should be noted that humility is a part of the Imitation of Christ. Consider
how God handles his banquets:
Luk 14:15-24 NIV
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus,
"Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of
God." (16) Jesus replied: "A
certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. (17) At the time of the banquet he sent his servant
to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' (18) "But they all alike began to make excuses.
The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please
excuse me.' (19) "Another said, 'I have
just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse
me.' (20) "Still another said, 'I just
got married, so I can't come.' (21) "The
servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house
became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and
alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the
lame.' (22) " 'Sir,' the servant said,
'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' (23) "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out
to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be
full. (24) I tell you, not one of those men
who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' "
is instructive to look at the excuses given here – for they are the same ones
we have in our modern lives. You don’t think so? Consider them this way:
The first is the
press of ordinary business. We are often warned that this should not be in the
way, but the cares of this world do tend to drive out the things of God. After
all, I have the rent to pay. God wouldn’t bother with that. Right?
Even less valid is
the press of new toys. I just bought an ATV; I need to take it out into the
desert and try it out. It is a common tactic of Satan; let the new step in the
way of the eternal.
Finally, there is
a phrase for the most powerful of roadblocks: the good is the enemy of the
best. Your marriage is very important, and a good thing – but neither so
important nor so good as the kingdom of God. Marriage is a part of the
commandment of God; do not let the part replace the whole.
– or, who should be invited?
of the great problems of the church over the centuries is the strong tendency
to fracture along the fault lines of wealth and respectability. James knew
about it in the time of the Apostles;
it has not departed from us yet. So then, just who should we be inviting to
our King’s banquet?
May I suggest the
usual suspects? All those folks who DO fit in with your church should be
But consider the
unlikely as well. Not just the physically crippled; the spiritually crippled as
well. Whom? What about those suffering from divorce or death? Those just out
of prison? Those whose biker/Goth/whatever lifestyle offends you?
even the enemies of God – the highwayman and the hedge robber.
says, “Whosoever will.” Just about covers it, too.
of course, becomes rather uncomfortable. So we look around to find reasons to
avoid it. Consider, however, the reasons to do it:
First, it is
obedience to God’s command. Make disciples of all people, He said.
Second, in so
doing we honor the humility of Christ – by imitating it.
Finally, it turns
us into carriers of God’s love. We are made a channel, where His grace is
poured. As such, we bring glory to his name and his love to any and all.
Luk 14:25-35 NIV
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: (26) "If anyone comes to me and does not hate
his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes,
even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. (27)
And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. (28) "Suppose one of you wants to build a
tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough
money to complete it? (29) For if he lays the
foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule
him, (30) saying, 'This fellow began to build
and was not able to finish.' (31) "Or
suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first
sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the
one coming against him with twenty thousand? (32)
If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long
way off and will ask for terms of peace. (33)
In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my
disciple. (34) "Salt is good, but if it
loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? (35)
It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
noted earlier that the good is often the enemy of the best, the part the enemy
of the whole. For some this appears to be a contradiction. If I am doing good
works, how can God condemn me for that? He doesn’t; but He may condemn you for
doing them when you should have done something else.
me a silly example. Let us suppose you come upon the scene of a horrific
automobile accident. There are many things you could do; for example, you
might talk to one of the survivors to assure them that they will be all right.
But shouldn’t you open your cell phone first and call 911?
an old example, but a useful one. If you are building a wagon, you build the
wheels from the hub out – not the rim in. If the axle is in the right place,
everything else will fall into place, or be so obvious that you know to fix
it. You must seek to place all things in their proper order.
authority has its proper order – and Christ is at the “hub”. Placing him first
puts all else in order, or shows where the problem is.
the cost – in suffering as well as dollars
has a grand sense of honesty. You’re going to suffer and spend no matter what
you do in life. But, as he makes clear, this certainly includes the Christian
life as well as any others. Indeed, the Christian life carries a high price
tag. It would be dishonest (common, but dishonest) to give the idea that
Christianity is a lark in the park. You are going to pay for it.
– to some extent – it’s true with any life style. So why not get something for
the suffering? How much better it is to suffer for the cause of Christ that it
is to suffer because your latest “gimme” is denied you?
is why Christ tells you to count the cost – and then take up the Cross. I can
think of no better way to explain this than a quote from Thomas à Kempis:
TO MANY the
saying, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross and follow Me,” (Matt. 16:24.) seems
hard, but it will be much harder to hear that final word: “Depart from Me, ye
cursed, into everlasting fire.” (Matt. 25:41.) Those who hear the word of the
cross and follow it willingly now, need not fear that they will hear of eternal
damnation on the day of judgment. This sign of the cross will be in the heavens
when the Lord comes to judge. Then all the servants of the cross, who during
life made themselves one with the Crucified, will draw near with great trust to
Christ, the judge.
Why, then, do
you fear to take up the cross when through it you can win a kingdom? In the
cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection from
enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is
strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is highest
virtue, in the cross is perfect holiness. There is no salvation of soul nor hope
of everlasting life but in the cross.
Take up your
cross, therefore, and follow Jesus, and you shall enter eternal life. He
Himself opened the way before you in carrying His cross, and upon it He died
for you, that you, too, might take up your cross and long to die upon it. If
you die with Him, you shall also live with Him, and if you share His suffering,
you shall also share His glory.