Looking Out For Number Three
Please read Luke 14:1-14 in your favorite Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020,
A man came home from a hard day at work. He was in a bad mood, grumbling about everything, including the food his wife set before him.
When all was ready, he paused ask the blessing. After the prayer, his little girl asked, "Daddy, does God hear us when we pray?"
"Why, of course," he replied. "He hears us every time we pray."
She paused a moment and asked, "Does he hear everything we say the rest of the time?"
"Yes, dear, every word," he replied, encouraged that he had inspired his daughter to become so curious about spiritual matters.
However, his pride was quickly turned to humility when she asked, "Then which does God believe?"
Every parent has the privilege of being taught lessons by their children! Lessons on humility may be the hardest to swallow but they are necessary for us to draw near to God.
Humility is the sure path to exaltation.
1. The occasion for the parable. (1-7)
The Pharisees’ disagreement with Jesus about proper Sabbath observance revealed the pride of the Pharisees. (vs. 1-6) The Pharisees and other pious Jews had interpreted healing as a kind of work which was forbidden on the Sabbath. This particular dinner was a set-up designed to trap Jesus on that subject. The text gives us clues:
Verse one tells us Jesus was being CAREFULLY WATCHED.
Verse two tells us the man had DROPSY, an illness of retaining body fluids, seen by many as a sign of God’s punishment of a sinful person. The fact that man who would’ve normally been shunned by people like the Pharisees “just happened” to be in the home of A PROMINENT PHARISEE at just the right time is purposeful, not coincidental
Jesus sprung the trap with a question in verse three and a defense of His action in v. 5, where He offered an argument of expediency, as He had done in 13:15. In 13:10-17, Jesus had already healed a crippled woman on a previous Sabbath and had been confronted by the SYNAGOGUE RULER on that occasion. This trap is no doubt based on that experience.
The result: the text tells us twice they were speechless. They had no grounds for proving Jesus wrong but weren’t going to agree with Him. This is a sure sign of pride; a resistance to changing one’s mind in spite of the facts.
Pride is also evident in the way they jostled for position at the table. In verse seven we are told THE GUESTS PICKED THE PLACES OF HONOR. Their pride was the cause of their unbelief so Jesus struck at their pride with the parable.
2. The particulars of the parable. (8-10).
The parable centered on a WEDDING FEAST. This was a common situation. In this culture, weddings were often celebrated for an entire week. At such celebrations, the table was “U” shaped, with t guests of honor at the base of the “U.”
Honored guests felt so assured of getting a seat of honor they purposely showed up late. Someone already seated was bumped from their place to make room for the latecomer. The person displaced not only suffered inconvenience but also embarrassment. In this culture, honor and shame were important, even life and death issues.
The strategy of humility is to pick the LEAST IMPORTANT PLACE at the banquet table. This wisdom is not original with Jesus; Proverbs 25:6-7 makes the same suggestion. This strategy removes the possibility of embarrassment as you can’t be downgraded in seating and makes it possible for you to receive an honorary upgrade. This strategy is not the point; Jesus‘ point is about God honoring the virtue of humility.
The reward for humility is a seat & prestige upgrade. To us, all this business about seating arrangements may feel a bit silly or overdone. Remember, this was a different culture, one that placed a high value on the concepts of shame and honor. If it helps, think about how much better it feels to be honored rather than humiliated. And if you need to make it more personal, remember how it felt to walk into the school cafeteria as a new student or freshman and have to look for a seat. It felt a little embarrassing and lonely, didn’t it?
Remember, all parables are stories that are driven to be a teaching device. The story itself is secondary to the point of the parable.
3. The point of the parable. (11)
The point of the parable is made perfectly plain in verse eleven. God will thwart egotistical people but will honor people who humble themselves. The verbs in the original language are all in the passive voice which is another clue that this is something God does to us; that He will take care of it. This is a principle as certain as sowing and reaping, as reliable as sunrise and sunset.
Contrary to popular belief, self-inflated folk do not fly higher. Jesus exposed the folly of the dinner guests trying to climb over one another over the issue of seating as a sure sign of the sins of pride and self-centeredness.
God will apply this principle with perfect justice. God works through all levels of human experience. On a “macro” level, He directs the destinies of nations, appointing people to rule them. On a “micro” level, He exerts influence over the smallest details of everyday life. AND he attends to the details of everything in between.
Because God is in charge, you can expect the principle of verse eleven to be fully enforced. God will see to it personally.
4. An application of the principle. (12-14)
Jesus’ first example was of a guest at a banquet, now He applies the principle to His host. This is where the point of the parable interfaces with the setting. The host of this event - the PROMINENT PHARISEE in verse one - had no doubt organized the occasion with an ulterior motive, to publicly entrap Jesus.
Taking that action indicates a lack of humility. In his pride, the Pharisee devised what he thought was a “fool-proof” way of dealing with Jesus, to catch Him violating the Sabbath laws as He had already done once previously and humble Him with scathing theological rebuke. Their pride makes their silence look all the more foolish.
The principle of humility also covers our motives. Humility involves being as unselfish as possible in one’s motives. Using His own parable as an example, Jesus observed we tend to throw parties for the people we know, like, trust, and can reasonably expect to receive an invite to a party in return. That’s a selfish motive. A truly humble person can demonstrate their humility by throwing a party for people they don’t know, maybe dislike or distrust, folks who unlikely to return the favor.
Do good for the right reasons and trust God to reward your good deeds. But humility doesn’t have to be entirely selfless: a heaven-approved motive is to trade earthly rewards for heavenly ones.
Those who follow through on Jesus’ guest list strategy may never get an earthly reward; they may never get repaid for their kindness. The humble person who acts unselfishly may expect a heavenly reward: “YOU WILL BE REPAID AT THE RESURRECTION OF THE RIGHTEOUS.”
Humility is the sure path to exaltation.
It was a twenty year class reunion that reunited two old high school friends after many years of being out of contact with each other. Of course, they filled one another in what had been happening in their lives. One of them had worked a series of odd jobs, had been rather lazy, and had no ambition to speak of.
The other had become very successful and he attributed his success to the Bible. He explained,
“One day I opened the Bible at random, and dropped my finger on a word and the word was oil. So, I invested in oil, and boy, did the oil wells gush. Then another day I dropped my finger on another word and it was gold. So, I invested in gold and those mines really produced. Now, I’m as rich as Rockefeller.”
The lazy friend thought that sounded like easy money, so he rushed home, grabbed his mother’s Bible, flipped it open, and dropped his finger on a page. He opened his eyes to find his finger rested on the words, “Chapter Eleven.”
You see, putting God’s word to work isn’t so easy. It requires ambition to do the right thing and along with it, a humble heart willing to serve God and people.
Here’s what the divine virtue of humility involves: Knowing, accepting, and enjoying the person God wants you to be, in the place He has assigned you, among the people He has placed you. Pride is ignorance, rejection, or disregarding those three factors, assuming selfish and worldly affections instead. Envy is a desire to be somebody else, somewhere else, with someone else.
The NIV Application Commentary, Luke, Darrell L. Bock