“Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence,
and do not claim a place among his great men;
it is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here,’
than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.”
The wise man Solomon had much to say about humility, and the statement above is one of his greatest illustrations. In fact, it is so good that our Master Jesus applied this very principle when teaching his disciples and opponents how to be humble – not necessarily in the presence of a king, but at a festive social occasion. The one greater than Solomon can help us appreciate Solomon’s words all the more.
Luke reported in his Gospel (14:1-14) that Jesus was invited to a feast at an important Pharisee’s home. When it was time to be seated at the table for the meal, Jesus watched as the various guests did what comes so naturally: they “picked the places of honor at the table.” He couldn’t help Himself. Disturbed to see this blatant display of worldly arrogance and presumption, our Master pointed out the better way of God’s kingdom that has come:
“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. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person 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 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.”
As it was then, so it now: our Master’s teaching about assuming a lower place is entirely countercultural. We’re told to push ourselves forward and make sure we get noticed. We’re told to think and act like we deserve the best and the best will be given to us. As one billboard advertisement for a truck announced, “The meek shall inherit the backseat.” So the world says. Jesus, who understands people and God’s world better than anyone, would reject these sentiments and have us do the same. As unrealistic as it sounds, we can know that He’s right when He says, “all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
View yourself as a servant of God and others, Disciple. Don’t let the world mislead you with its fun house mirror that would have you see yourself differently than you really are. You are important and precious, but let others focus on that. It is for you to focus on how important and precious God and others are. Love and serve them, and you will most certainly be counted as great in God’s kingdom. We’ll have to trust our Master on this one. He assures us: “The greatest among you will be your servant” (Matthew 23:11).
Learning to be truly great through humility with you,