Story 6: Seat of honor at a Sunday Dinner
In this series, Every Meal is a Story, we are looking at stories in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus breaks bread with all sorts of folks where they live in order to teach simple truth. In stories 4-7 Jesus addresses the tension between faith and culture. Jesus is not interested in a self-righteous religion that leads to pride and exclusion, but demands holiness and humility for those who follow him.
Read Luke 14:1-24
One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:1, 7-11 NIV
As a young single involved in ministry with international students, I often brought a friend or two home for family meals over the holidays. Sadly, there were times that some family members made joking comments using racist terms to refer to these friends. As my husband and I travel in many countries, we deepen cross cultural friendships using familial terms like “daughter or granddaughter.” And in turn, they call us “Grandfather” or “Mom,” which has made our own children jealous. As we seek to expand our table both at home and in the wider community, it can be a difficult adjustment for those who have the “highest” place of privilege. In the Kingdom of God the humble are invited to the place of honor at the great banquet.
A radical calling out of people’s prejudices and arrogance seemed to be a normal Sunday after church lunch conversation for Jesus. The conservative elite were waiting for a showdown and he certainly delivers by healing an uninvited guest against the religious rules of the day. The guests did not celebrate the joy of a transformed life, but prefered sitting in silent condemnation. As they were unmoved by a miracle, Jesus continues with his observations of their self-righteous need for a seat of honor at the table. Jesus challenges them saying, “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Jesus then speaks directly to the host with a parable about a great banquet to be tasted in the coming kingdom. Many have been invited but are not coming because of their priority to property and people that keeps them from accepting God’s invitation. He urges the gathered guests not to just invite friends, relatives, or rich neighbors because there is plenty of room at the table for “the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” Who would be on Jesus’ list today in his challenge to open a bigger table in our homes? Could it be your Muslim neighbor, LGBTQ colleague, international student, homeless person, the physically challenged, or your kid’s immigrant classmate? Our circles often include people like us and excludes others, revealing our lack of interest in bringing all people to a seat of honor and to relationship with God in community.
May we be humbled by this simple truth that all our rules and exclusions are to be broken so that others may find healing and salvation. To love people and invite them to “taste” this love feast is the true honor that comes through choosing humility and inclusion. Jesus calls for the invitation to be fully proclaimed because he says there is still room in his house.
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14
Reflect: Think of a time you have been excluded. What did it feel like? Now imagine yourself at a great banquet. Who do you see? Who is not present?
“Humility is perfect quietness of heart. It is to expect nothing, to wonder at nothing that is done to me, to feel nothing done against me. It is to be at rest when nobody praises me, and when I am blamed or despised. It is to have a blessed home in the Lord, where I can go in and shut the door, and kneel to my Father in secret, and am at peace as in a deep sea of calmness, when all around and above is trouble.” Andrew Murray
Practice: What person would Jesus challenge you to invite to the table this week?
Be intentional in practicing humility. How can you take the lower place and give honor to someone else? For example, instead of posting a selfie, shine the light on someone else’s achievements. Is there a social justice issue you have keep silent on that you could spotlight?
Use prayer postures such as extending your arms with your hands palm up as a practice to encourage the humility of surrendering your preferences and position. Infinitum offers a guide for the prayer postures: