Luke 14:10 “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when the 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.”
Jesus is not talking about a psychological trick, a device, to get ourselves moved up in life. His purpose isn’t to make us clever about getting what we want. He is describing a person with true humility.
True humility does not have grand designs for position and prestige. When it takes the lowest place, the last place, the least desirable place, it is pretty certain it has taken the place where it belongs. It doesn’t deserve any better than this.
Such humility is not the result of childhood trauma. It is not the product of shame robbing us of the belief that we have worthwhile gifts or abilities. Godly humility is something quite different.
Godly humility realizes that God has made you and me rather impressive displays of his creative genius. There has been no one else exactly like us in all of history. Our minds and bodies possess powerful, beautiful abilities that make us creatures of glory. We are the crown of his creation. To deny this would insult him.
But you and I are not the only ones. Our gifts may be unique. But it is not unique to be gifted. Our Lord has been as good to everyone else as he has been to you and me. They possess powerful, beautiful abilities, though they may be different than our own. Godly humility understands this.
But we haven’t made such good use of the gifts we have been given. We have been unfaithful stewards, poor managers. We have turned them mostly to serve ourselves. That changes our idea about what we deserve. In the general confession of sins we admit: “For this I deserve your punishment both now and in eternity.” That’s hardly a demand for the place of honor at the feast.
What place will our Lord give to such humility? “…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.” God calls the humble “friend.” No one likes the prideful person, but everyone likes the humble person. Even the secular world tends to respect and trust the humble. Think of George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life. He passes on an extravagant honeymoon vacation, an exciting new business venture, and a place on the board of the local bank because he is not too good or too high to help even some of the poorer people in town. At the end he enjoys the love and friendship of almost everyone in Bedford Falls.
Sometimes the world recognizes the humble. But the humble are the only people with whom God can work. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “(The Lord) crowns the humble with salvation” (Psalm 149:4). Why? Only the humble admit to their sins, which Jesus freely forgives. Only the humble have set aside their tainted honors, and have empty hands into which God can pour his love and gifts. Only the humble have a place in God’s kingdom now, and will move up to a place of honor at God’s feast in heaven.
We hear the word “deserve” in advertising often. Commercials offer things like the house you always deserved, the job you deserve, the break from parenting your children you deserve, even the shapely figure that you deserve. I don’t know what they think we did to deserve all this. I do know we don’t want what we deserve from God. We want his grace instead. May he give us the humility to receive it.