Our story in Luke 14:1-14 begins when Jesus is invited to a Sabbath feast at one of the Pharisee’s house. At this feast, Jesus “noticed how the guests were jockeying for places of honor at the dinner” (The Voice). And so Jesus told them a 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. 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.” (NIV)
Now, is Jesus simply trying to give us savvy social advice? Is He trying to teach us shrewd ways to seek our own honor? I found this commentary very interesting for our discussion: “The parable Jesus told is actually a version of one told by other rabbis at the time – but with a noticeable difference. Other rabbis advised that one should take a seat two or three places below where one would normally sit – but not all the way at the end” (carefulfornothing.com). You see, in Jesus’ day the lowest seat was reserved for the lowest guest who was expected to act as the servant for the meal in the case that no servants were present. It was the seat that no one wanted! “[I]n taking the lowest seat one would be indicating to everyone else that he or she is not unlike a hired servant or slave.”
How often today do we catch ourselves ranking those around us? Trying to figure out how we fit into the social hierarchy? (I have certainly been guilty here.) But when Jesus tells us to take the lowest seat, he is telling us to completely skip ranking anyone (under any circumstances) and to simply consider ourselves as everyone else’s servant! Is this a radical paradigm shift for us? You bet! But how can we ever break out of these destructive thought processes that are so deeply ingrained in our psyches? Perhaps our only answer is to spend time with the Servant of Servants! After all, the more time we spend with Jesus and observe His example, the more we can’t help becoming like Him! Let’s spend some of our personal devotion time this week meditating on Christ’s example. I, for one, plan on re-reading John 13 and Philippians 2:5-11. Would you be willing to join me?