I’m invited to a rather significant banquet. I do not know the full guest list but I hear that I’ll be rubbing shoulders with influential people.
I don’t belong.
At least that is what I’m going to say. I’ve learned a good bit from Jesus in Luke 14 about where to sit at these things. If you take the lowest place at the banquet, then the dude who is throwing the party will tell you to move up the ranks. Everybody will clap, the party will be about you for a brief moment, and you’ll take your rightly earned and exalted seat. It’s something like that.
I know I’m one of the lower guys on the totem pole. It’d be unseemly for me to position myself at one of the most revered places in the banquet hall. So I’ll position myself as mostly incompetent and I’ll tell people I’m not even certain why I got invited to the party in the first place. I’ll crack a joke or two about figuring they meant to invite the pitcher for the Cardinals with the same name. I’ll probably sit in one of those smelly and uncomfortable seats next to the smelly bathroom.
It’ll only be temporary. I’ll get moved up to the cool kids table where I belong. Eventually.
Except I don’t get moved up.
This is the most miserable banquet I’ve ever attended. The steak is bland. The music is lame. I’ve never been so disrespected in all my life. And I know some of these goons who are seated in positions of honor above me. They should be sitting by the smelly bathroom, not me.
I had been entertaining a dream of that moment when the host came over and encouraged me to sit in one of the more valuable positions at the banquet. It was going to be great getting that VIP badge placed around my neck and to give that smug look as I passed my near-the-smelly-bathroom dwelling peers.
But now that dream is being overtaken by another as anger towards the host is overtaking me. How dare he not exalt me? How dare he ignore my position and not put me in the honored places I belong? Now I’m picturing myself making a scene as I leave. I don’t need this stupid banquet anyways. It’s dumb and the food tastes like cardboard. He’s a miserable host anyways who doesn’t take care of those he invited. I’m going to thumb my nose at all these arrogant jerks as I make a rather noisy exit.
So, what can you say of my heart? I took the lowest place at the table and now I’m seething because I didn’t get moved up. The state of your heart gets exposed when you breathe in a bit more of the foul bathroom odors than you thought you would.
If this is my heart, I’m not truly humble, am I? I’m not giving deference to the host. I know my place. I took this dumb seat because I figured he'd move me up, but I’m still here and I’m mad about it. That’s not humility; that’s exalting one's self.
Jesus’ parable in Luke 14 isn’t a way to "fake-humble" your way into honor. It’s not an invitation to fish for compliments or to find a way to make the party about yourself for a few minutes. This parable is about exposing all of us. It’s exposing the fact that none of us but the true King will kiss a cross. We’ll fight for the seat of honor even if it means enduring a seat near the bathroom for awhile.
This type of false humility is just as deadly as blatant platforming and jockeying for the best seat at the table. In fact, it might even be worse. It’s hijacking gospel-truths and gospel-language as a means to make the gospel about my exaltation, instead of His.
True humility is happy to be invited to the party. True humility gives deference to the host. “Where do you want me to sit? I’m fine by the bathroom if that’s where you want me. Or, I’ll sit at the table of honor. Wherever you put me, I’m here for you.”
The truly humble person will take the low position and will not be shocked, dismayed, or depressed if he stays there.