The parable of the humbled guest in Luke 14:7-11 relates:
“So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by them; 9 and he who invited you come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.10 But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes and says, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
I’m not sure if I remember ever hearing this being preached. Perhaps one of the reasons why this isn’t shared or I can’t remember it being shared is, I don’t know if I’ve ever been to an occasion where there’s more exalted seats than others. At a wedding, yes, there are seats up the front closest to the bridal table. But at modern weddings we have name places and the seating arrangements already worked out. It is the same with official functions, and there are not many tables. So let us talk about the parable in the context of where Jesus was and then we can move from there.
We read in the passage that the people Jesus was talking about were just taking upon themselves to go and sit in the best seats. Jesus told them not to sit on the special seats because they may be asked to vacate them when the special people have arrived. But instead He advised them to sit on the least place and wait until the party host asks them to move to the high places.
I remember a mission trip in India where about 100 to 150 Pastors and their wives attended. There was a dinner served which was hosted by an Indian apostle, the head of over 400 churches and a Bible School. The food was served on banana leaves, which was typical of Indian meals. There were four long tables. I was about to sit on one of the chairs when the apostle gestured to me and said, “Come and sit here.”
It was amazing! I couldn’t believe it. I was seated on the right side of the apostle who led our mission trip of 150 people and who ran a denomination of 400 churches! And at stages through the meal, he turned to me and asked me questions. I couldn’t believe how fortunate I was to be sitting next to him.
The reason I was so interested in him was that it was the first time I’ve met a person who was in charge of 400 churches. Indians are my favorite race of people in the world. So I was so excited to meet someone who was in charge of big groups of them. I was so impressed with that. But I was more impressed that he’d met Jesus in the flesh on multiple occasions and conversed with Him. I met Jesus in the flesh once and so I had something to talk about with him. I was just so, so, so happy to be seated next to him. I felt so important.
This was what Jesus was talking about. When we came into that dinner after the conference, I’m not sure how the people should be seated. All I know was, the apostle caught my eye and had saved a seat next to him and asked me to sit on it. It was a wonderful day.
In certain churches, the front seat is taken by older pastors or the most important people in the church. I always like to be close to the front at my own church; I just feel closer to God up the front. In sports and in entertainment, the closer you are to the front, the closer you are to the action.
So I imagined that if you’re invited to an official function, taking the most important seat or the seat right up the front to someone you don’t know very well could be a little bit of an insult. Jesus was saying to these men full of pride that if you exalt yourself, you’re going be humbled by God. But if you humble yourself, you’ll be exalted.
Now, in the time when I was over in India, I was quite a prideful person. I still have elements of pride within myself. So, it wasn’t any of my own humility that had me exalted on that day. It’s just a perfect illustration of this parable. I just feel that even though I’ve been prideful in the past, God saw my heart and spoke to the apostle that day and said, “Have Matthew come and sit next to you.” And it was truly a privilege, you know. Peter said it too, “Humble yourself before the Lord and in due time he’ll exalt you.” (1 Peter 5:6)
Humility is something that Jesus is very big on. He humbled himself and was born in a stable. He became humbled as a man when He got crucified naked on the cross for us. Jesus never took the high seat. There was no wedding feast in Israel that had a seat more exalted than what Jesus could have taken. Jesus could have taken the most exalted seat in any function in Israel in His day. He was the Messiah. But Jesus walked in humility.
That is the lesson for all of us in this parable. Jesus was speaking here of humility; of taking a back seat; of not being hungry for recognition. If you are a mature, humble Christian, you really have no need for recognition when you did something for the Lord. You pretty well know that the Lord does not overlook what is done for Him. If you will not be exalted on earth, you will surely reap your rewards in heaven.
Jesus was saying that even all the devotion wasn’t enough to be prideful and walk around thinking you are better than anyone else. You’ll find that the personality of Jesus is expressed within His parables. You get fuller, more complete picture of who Jesus was and what He believed when you spend time reading and understanding His parables.
I hope that this has touched your heart.