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: “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; 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 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. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
I am not sure if I remember ever hearing this being preached. Also, I don’t think I have been to a place where one seat is higher exalted than another. At a wedding, yes, there are seats up 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. So let us talk about the parable in the context of where Jesus was and then we can move on 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 in the special seats because they may be asked to vacate them when the special people arrive, but instead He advised them to sit in the least places and wait until the party host asks them to move to the high places.
I remember a twelve day mission trip in India my parents took me on, where up one hundred and fifty pastors and their wives attended. There was a dinner served which was hosted by an Indian apostle called Brother James who was the head Pastor over four hundred and fifty churches and also head of a Bible School.
The food was served on banana leaves, which was typical of Indian meals when special people were to be served. There were four long tables. I was about to sit on one of the chairs when Brother James gestured to me and said, “Come and sit here with me.”
It was amazing! I could not believe it. I was seated on the right side of the apostle who ran a huge denomination of churches! A few times, during the meal, he turned to me and asked me questions. I could not 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 have met a person who had such an incredible testimony and had so much authority over so many people.
Indians are my favorite race of people in the world. Before meeting with him I had read his life story. As an unbeliever, he had been diligently searching for the one true God. He had been very disenchanted with the three hundred and thirty million “gods” of the Hindu faith, which all his family and friends adhered to. Not one of these gods had ever answered any of his prayers or had helped him in any way! He had just lived with condemnation and guilt no matter how hard he tried to be a good person. He felt empty and powerless to be able to change his lifestyle and felt that there had to be something more to life. His uncle had told him if he wanted to find truth he was to isolate himself somewhere, pray and fast and he would find the answer he was looking for.
There was a hill not too far from where he lived, actually the village folk call it a mountain, but I visited it after meeting this man and it is really only a hill. Anyway, James climbed this hill and set up a make-shift home for himself in a cave. There was a fresh water hole nearby that the ladies of the village came to fill their water pots every day. He told his family that he was going to stay at this place until he received the answers he was wanting.
He had heard about Jesus and was curious to know more. He had been impressed with the testimony of one of his close friends about the Christian God. As he was deep in prayer, he heard his name being called and he opened his eyes to see this man coming toward him. It was Jesus in the flesh! For three awesome hours James and Jesus talked just like we would talk to our brother. Jesus fully explained the full Gospel message and then appointed James to establish and overseer fifteen hundred churches in India. When we were in India in 2005 this man had almost one third of his mission completed.
Not long after this supernatural encounter with the Lord in the flesh, the younger brother had died and Jesus told James not to leave his side as He was going to raise him from the dead as a testimony to the Hindu people of the village that resurrection power comes by belief in Jesus Christ. Despite pleas from the village people he would not leave the side of his dead brother, telling the people that he would be risen from the dead. It is the Hindu custom to burn the dead as soon as possible and it was an offense to their faith to have this corpse in plain sight; their gods would be angry and the people would suffer.
Then it happened…..on the forth day, his brother rose, stood up and said he was hungry. Hundreds of people converted to Christianity in the following weeks. My family and I later shook hands and spoke to the once dead man. He has his own church now and a wonderful little family of his own. The only physical difference to John now, is that he has a slight twitch in his face from time to time, but in every other respect he is absolutely normal.
This day at the Pastors Meeting, I was excited to meet a real Apostle who had been so used by the Lord, but I was even more impressed to hear all about that wonderful encounter. I felt so highly privileged to have the honor of sitting next to him. This was what Jesus was talking about. When we came into that dinner after the conference, I wasn’t sure how the people should be seated. The next thing I knew, Brother James caught my eye and said he had saved me a seat next to him. 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 feel closer to God at the front. In sports and in entertainment, the closer you are to the front, the closer you are to the action. So imagine that if you are invited to an official function, taking the most important seat or the seat right up in front, near someone you do not know very well, could be a little bit of an insult. How embarrassing to be told in front of everyone to move to a lesser seat – wouldn’t you rather be told to move to a better seat? Using this example, Jesus was saying to these men full of pride, that if you exalt yourself, you will be humbled by God, but if you humble yourself, you will be exalted.
Now, at the time I was in India, I was quite a prideful person. I still have elements of pride within myself. So, it was not any of my own humility that had me exalted on that day. It is, however, a perfect illustration of this parable. I feel that, even though I have 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. Peter said it too, “Humble yourself before the Lord and in due time he will exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6).
Humility was evidenced in the life of Jesus constantly. Although King of all Kings, He was born in a stable. He lived as a devoted and diligent Servant to His Father and was ultimately stripped naked before men as He hung on the cross. He never took the high seat. Yet, Jesus could have taken the most exalted seat in any function in all Israel for He was their Messiah: instead He chose the humble path.
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 do something for the Lord. You know that the Lord has seen what you’ve done and will not overlook what is done for Him. If you will not be exalted on earth, you will surely reap your rewards in Heaven.
I hope that this parable has touched your heart.