You are invited to the wedding of a friend. You arrive (in an adorable dress, of course) and find a scene straight out of Pinterest. The tables are decorated beautifully with candles and fresh flowers. The smell of the food makes your mouth water. The room is crowded. Most of the seats are full. But you do notice two available spots. One is near the bride and groom. There is no indication that it's reserved. The other seat is at the kids' table, practically in the coat closet, far away from all of the festivities.
Choose your own adventure.
Do you sit in the choice spot, near the action? Or at the kids' table, where you will have to strain to hear what's happening with the bride and groom above the sound of screaming children?
It's the question Jesus asks in one my favorite stories He tells in the New Testament. It's a short story (a.k.a. parable), so I'm going to type the whole thing into this post. Check it out.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, "When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,' and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 14:7–11).
Jesus' story is loaded with Jewish traditions that may cause it to zoom right above our heads, but we don't have to be in New Testament Palestine to grasp the moral. In fact, like all good storytellers, Jesus sums it up for us.
"For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (v. 11).
He's saying that those of us who fight for position or power or attention or recognition are bound to be put in our place.
But those of us who put others first will be noticed and honored by God.
Humility is tough. Just when we think we're humble, wham! We find ourselves fighting to sit at the head of the table again (figuratively, of course). Just when we commit to put others above ourselves, we start wrestling with our own desire to make it all about us.
Maybe that's why Jesus addressed humility in this way. When He saw selfishness and pride (humility's mortal enemies) in the lives of the people He was teaching, He didn't blast them or chew them out. Instead, He told a simple story of a wedding feast and gave us an image of what humility should look like.
Christmas is literally right around the corner. It sure can be a season of me-first living. I'd like you to imagine your Christmas festivities like the wedding feast Jesus described. Instead of ripping into presents or scarfing that last piece of pie, how can you take the lowly seat at the table so to speak and put other's needs ahead of your own?
Speaking of Christmas, it's really Jesus' first story about humility. The carpenter. The shepherds. The young momma. They're all folks who would be asked to sit at the lowly end of the wedding table, and yet Jesus showed Himself to them first. It's the beginning of the greatest story ever told. If He can choose humble beginnings, you and I can choose humble living.
Think back to the wedding I described at the beginning of this post. Which seat did you choose? Are you enjoying the view from the head table or playing tic tac toe with a four year old in the back? It's just an example of course. Simply a story, but it may reveal something about your heart.
Where do you see yourself at the banquet table? Do you tend to push to the front to see and be seen or are you okay with putting others first? Either way, let Jesus' story remind you of the power of humility. How can you put His story into practice this week?