Luke 14:7-11 (NIV) 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 man 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 your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In every society, many desire to be close to the top, close to those in power, close to where the action is and where the perks originate. So there is usually a constant jockeying for position – a jockeying that becomes more apparent the higher you go in that society.
Even Jesus’ own disciples were not immune to this desire for position and prestige. They were constantly discussing which of them was the greatest of Jesus’ followers, and who would get the top spots in His administration once He took power. James and John even went so far as to directly petition Jesus to be given the two top spots in His kingdom (Mark 10:35-40), making the rest of the disciples indignant (mostly because they hadn’t thought of doing that themselves!).
But, as Jesus points out here, the ways of the kingdom are the polar opposite of the ways of the world. In the world, the tops spots are often given to the most assertive, although that assertiveness does come with some real risk. Whether it is choosing a choice seat at a banquet, or pushing ourselves forward for a position of greater responsibility, there is always the chance that we will be asked to move down to make room for the one chosen by management for that position. Then we will have to move down in front of everyone to a lower position. When James and John tried that kind of technique, Jesus answer was not congratulatory of their initiative. Instead, they were told that, ”these places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Translation: “Not you; move on down.”
Instead, the way of the kingdom is for all of us to realize that everyone in the kingdom is a servant of God, and, even though we might have different jobs in the body of Christ, and different responsibilities, we can’t actually place ourselves above another in the kingdom organization. No human will be able to improve on God’s agenda or His priorities. No human will be able to point out to God a detail that He overlooked, or remind Him of something that He has forgotten. And no human will be able to wow God with their creativity and potential that He hadn’t noticed. So instead of pushing for a higher position or greater recognition, the best way to operate in the kingdom is for each person to humbly do the job that God has given to each of us, to humbly fulfill that calling that He has placed on our lives, and leave it up to God to decide when more responsibility or greater recognition is appropriate. Then such additional responsibility and recognition won’t prove to be a corrupting influence, but will greatly enhance the success of the work of the kingdom in the world.
Father, we are so used to working in the ways of the world, blowing our own horn for fear that we and our accomplishments will be overlooked. But in Your kingdom, nothing is ever overlooked by You. You know precisely what we are fitted for and when we are able to handle additional responsibilities. Help us to be content with that, to humbly focus on doing what You have directed until new orders come from You, in Your perfect timing, or until we stand before Your throne to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) Amen.