By nature, we look for comfort. We want the elite place with the optimal view next to our favorite people. The disciples James and John wanted that, too. They asked Jesus this favor: “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” (1) They wanted to be near Jesus, the best seat in the house. What is so wrong with that? Well, nothing—except everything. 🤨 And Jesus explained to them that they really did not know what they were asking. But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst part was this: “And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John.” (2) Their request created dissension. The disciples probably felt James and John were acting like they deserved better treatment than the rest. But if they were honest with themselves, they would have to admit that their anger was a reflection of their own selfish jealousy of wanting the same thing. After all, if they did not want to sit next to Jesus then they would not mind who did, right? 😏
Well, Jesus set them straight by discussing the concepts of greatness and servanthood. But I like the parable Jesus told at another time when the issue arose again with the Pharisees. (It’s a problem for everyone!) Here’s what he said.
“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.” (3) We love being honored, don’t we? Getting preferential treatment usually feels right. After all, we are good people. We deserve respect. But it is best to remember that there are always people who deserve more honor than we do. Point #1: Don’t take the best seat in the house. Why? 🤔
Because “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.” (4) Thinking we are better than others can only lead to humiliation. There is no place to go but down! Point #2: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (5)
So, here’s the advice: “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place.” (6) Next time you are invited to a gathering, take the worst seat in the house. Instead of the comfy recliner, take the hard cold metal folding chair. The one that is in the back corner, away from the food. And the TV. And the music. And your close friends. The one next to the awkward weird guy. Point #3: Look for the worst seat. Why? 🤔
“So that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’” (6) Point #4: It is better to be elevated by someone else and not yourself. “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” (7)
And then this might (not always) but might happen: “Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (8) God is not opposed to us being honored. He is, however, “opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (9) We are never to pursue honor. God and most people I know have no patience with a haughty spirit. Point #5: Take no pride in being honored. Instead, be humbled by it. For with humility comes grace.
And who doesn’t need grace?
(1) Mark 10:37 (2) Mark 10:41 (3) Luke 14:8 (4) Luke 14:9 (5) Proverbs 16:18 (6) Luke 14:10 (7) Proverbs 27:2 (8) Luke 14:10-11 (9) 1 Peter 5:5