Jesus Teaches About Being Humble
[Luke chapter 14, verses 1-14]
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Today as we move on to chapter 14 of the Gospel of Luke, we find ourselves in an entirely new setting than we were previously. As before back in chapter 11, Jesus was invited to the home of one of the Pharisees for a formal Sabbath dinner. But, remembering how Jesus had (figuratively) turned the tables on them when they accused him of sinning by healing on the Sabbath, this time around the Pharisees plotted to entrap our Lord and Savior and so once again attempt to discredit him and his ministry. So they seated him just behind a man who was chronically ill with “dropsy”, as the Bible calls it. This is an old term for the swelling of soft tissues due to the accumulation of excess water in the extremities of the body. Thus, the person might have edema due to congestive heart failure. Having gotten that little definition out of the way, let’s begin today’s study at verse 1.
“One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and the experts in the Law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’ But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, Jesus healed him and sent him away. 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?’ And they had nothing to say.” (Luke 14, verses 1-6)
As you recall from just a couple of lessons ago, Jesus had humiliated the Pharisees when he healed a crippled man on the Sabbath after they accused him of sinning because of the way Jesus healed him. So evidently they surmised this time around – incorrectly as usual – that they could entrap Christ by appealing to his pity and compassion. How did Jesus respond? He went ahead and healed the man and then practically dared any of those present who were in positions of leadership to say anything critical about it! “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?’ And they had nothing to say.” The Pharisees could not think of one single response! Meanwhile, Jesus continued to enjoy all the free food! Then, without waiting any further for a response from these “experts in the Law”, Jesus changes the subject beginning at verse 7.
“When he noticed how the guests picked their places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone who invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may be invited. If so, the host who invited both of you may say to you, ‘Give this man your seat’. Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 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 honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’” (Luke 14, verses 7-11)
As you can tell, Jesus was once again unimpressed with the ways and traditions of the Pharisees. There are a couple of facts worth noting here. There will no people in heaven who are presumptuous, pushy, arrogant, self-important, or conceited egomaniacs. There are some people who need to be taught a lesson in humility, such as our current President as well as the 1 million per day who post “selfies” on social media. None of us is or will ever be at the center of the universe. That place has one lone occupant, the Lord God Almighty, with his only Son seated at his right hand. None of us has any business anywhere near that Throne. Only the shed blood of Jesus Christ at Golgotha upon that rugged old cross allows us into heaven at all, let alone getting anywhere near there.
“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 honored in the presence of all your fellow guests.” You know, there’s nothing wrong with being a humble person! But sometimes being humble means not trying to draw any attention towards ourselves. It means being mature enough to realize that not everybody can be first, nor are we meant to be, and it’s perfectly OK not to be too. It is unfortunate that there are individuals who are convinced that showing off their talents and skills at the expense of others makes them a better person because it demonstrates their “winning attitude”. Folks like this are invariably domineering, overbearing, and “my way or the highway” types of people. There are a lot of people like that working in government, up to and including the current occupant of the White House. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Only Jesus, the smartest man who ever lived, could sum it up in one little sentence like that. Self-promoters will find themselves demoted by God, but those with humble and contrite hearts will be first in the Kingdom of God, as well as in life. And now let’s conclude today’s study starting at verse 12.
“Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors: If you do, they might invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’” (Luke 14, 12-14)
These 3 verses are the very essence of how we practice our Christian faith! When we give to others, we do so freely, and without any expectation of repayment. So when Christians (not religious people, but followers of Christ instead of dogma) give to others, we do so unconditionally, just as Jesus died on the cross unconditionally for our sins. As the old hymn goes, “He paid a debt he did not owe for a debt I could not pay”. Another way of looking at this would be that we can invite our friends, relatives or co-workers over anytime we want. But if you can seat a bunch of poor, sick or homeless folks around the table for a nice meal, it may be the only opportunity we have to do this. Because tomorrow any one of them could be dead from exposure to the elements, or be beaten to death in their sleep, or even shot by yet another overzealous police officer. There’s no way to know for sure. Also, what did Jesus mean by the “resurrection of the righteous”? He was referring to the resurrection from the dead of all those who were sincere followers of Jesus while they were living. This will not occur until the ‘taking up’ or “the rapture” of the church, as some call it, somewhere near the midpoint of the 7 year ‘tribulation’ period described in the Book of Daniel. But, that’s a separate topic for another time. And next week we’ll finish Luke chapter 14.