7 And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The mind of the Christian is to be one of humility.
It is natural to want recognition from our fellow man. We crave respect, approval, acknowledgement. It’s part of our human nature to want these things. We crave to feel important, because often the world makes us feel insignificant.
Here as Jesus is invited to a dinner, He sits and watches the guests, each jockey for position at the table. It is a familiar scene to Him. His own disciples spend their time often jockeying for position with Him, trying to gain more power and authority over the others when the Kingdom comes.
For the King of Heaven who gave up the honor and respect due Him to live a simple peasant life where He did not have a home of His own, this must have been both amusing and frustrating to watch. For the disciples of Christ are called to live as He did. Not craving power, position, and respect. Not craving wealth, palaces, and monuments. The Christian is called instead to live in simplicity and humility. We are to set aside our own desires for fame and renown, and as Christ did, leave it all to focus on loving one another.
So the advice of Christ is to embrace humility and trust that God will exalt you for your humble life of service more so than any fame or rewards you would net following your own impulses to gain recognition. Paul would later write in regards to Christ’s humility:
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus appeals to the crowd to be humble in very practical terms. The customary table at that time apparently had seats of varying honor. Christ tells them that if they misjudge their worth in the eyes on their host, they will be demoted and humiliated before the assembled guests. Whereas if you assume the lowest place, your host may exalt you to a higher place and therefore honor you in front of all.
Christ enjoyed these types of paradoxes. Recall a similar one often repeated about the one who tries to save his life will lose it, while the one who gives up his life will find it. This is an extension of that mindset. In giving up these desires for a life of service, you will find greater honor.
12 And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. 13 But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
This also harkens back to something we read earlier. Specifically, in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5:
46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
There is no piety in hosting a meal for someone if they can and will repay you. If we’re only generous with those that can and will repay us, then we’re not going above and beyond the simple obligations of friendship. Service involves helping those who cannot repay you. It involves giving from what we have to others who don’t have the same blessings: it could be money, time, labor, hospitality, or any other need that they have that we can provide.
Christ promises that God will see our humility and our service to the needy and will reward and honor us in His kingdom.