7Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8“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, 9and 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. 10But 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 table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The first time I read this passage, I missed the true meaning.
It seems like Jesus is giving wise advice here on seeking praise. If you’re full of yourself and clamor to be noticed, you’ll get embarrassed when it’s revealed you weren’t worthy of the honor you were trying to claim.
So, the advice goes, the best thing to do is to act as meek and self-abasing as possible. You’ll know on the inside that you’re worthy of more honor – and when the host notices, good things will happen. The host will think you’re a humble and nice person. The other guests will agree. Together, they’ll ascribe honor to you and give you what you truly deserve.
The Real Meaning
But Jesus isn’t giving practical advice here on how to game the system to get honor. This is not a proverb – it’s a parable. Jesus is using the story to symbolically illustrate a biblical truth.
What Jesus is talking about here is truly being humble in life. If your goal in appearing humble is so that you will be lifted up and exalted in front of the dinner guests, then that’s not true humility. It is a self-serving act of theater.
God, represented by the host of the parable, knows your true opinion of yourself. You can’t act humble in public but be arrogant in your heart and think that you’re going to trick God.
How About You?
So what are you doing in your life that is the equivalent of fighting for the best seat in the banquet? Do you desire a position of prominence in your church? Do you want to be known by others as skilled and gifted in your particular areas of service? Are you glorying in your accomplishments? Are you discouraged when you feel that people aren’t noticing how hard you work or how much good you do?
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