“Enlarging Your Circle”
Lesson Text: Luke 14:7-14
Background Scripture: Luke 14:7-24
Devotional Reading:Psalm 147:1-11
Luke 14:7-14 (KJV)
7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,
8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.
10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
To respond with humility and generosity to the needs of others.
To know that Jesus expects His followers to demonstrate humility in the extending and receiving of hospitality.
Perform one act of Christian charity in the week ahead that involves no expectation of repayment.
Proud to be Humble
In his book The Life You've Always Wanted, John Ortberg asks, "We'd like to be humble—but what if no one notices?" If we take pride in our giftedness, why not be proud of our humbleness? And if no one notices how humble we are, shouldn't we point it out?
To anyone with a biblical perspective on humility, the idea of trumpeting humbleness as a prideful accomplishment does not make sense. It is an oxymoron—a self-contradiction. Pride and humility are not good partners. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6). This week's lesson takes us to some of Jesus' instructions in this regard.
Place:probably in Perea
Today's lesson takes us into a period of time known as the later Perean ministry of Jesus (compare Luke 13:22; John 10:40-42). During this time, in Jesus' third year of ministry, He was invited to a Sabbath-day meal at the home of "one of the chief Pharisees" (Luke 14:1a). As in the lesson from two weeks ago, this proves to be a test as to whether or not Jesus will heal on the Sabbath. Jesus was under close observation (v. 1b), but the subsequent healing seemed to have been done without overt controversy (vs. 2-4). Instead, Luke's focus is on the dynamics of the meal itself. Before diving into today's text, knowing a few things about these village meals-by-invitation will help us understand what was going on there.
The meal at issue in our text happened in a private home, thus sharply limiting the size of the guest list. Luke does not say how many guests were there, but probably no more than about a dozen were at the table, reclining on cushions. Therefore it is a mistake to think of these local dinners as "banquets" in the modern sense of hundreds of guests situated in a hotel ballroom.
The meal would have been served by the household servants. It is also likely that there were others present who were not at the table, but were standing or sitting around the edges of the room. This arrangement indicated a pecking order: the most-honored guests were at the table, while the less honored were not.
The host presided from a central position at the table, and the closer one was to the host, the more prestigious his status at this dinner. Meals-by-invitation in the village would have been of differing size and scope depending on the occasion. A weekly Sabbath meal (like the one in our text) would have been less elaborate than a banquet.
The Savior Teaches About Humility (Luke 14:7-11)
1. Why did Jesus tell the parable about receiving an invitation to a wedding feast? (Luke 14:7-9)
The focus of Luke 14 is Jesus accepting an invitation one sabbath to dine at the house of a leader of the Pharisees, who was possibly a synagogue official (14:1). Jesus observed how the invited guests are vying for the “chief rooms.” This phrase does not refer to guest rooms in the home (it probably doesn't have any), but “room” in the sense of “space.” People are jockeying for the best places at the dinner, to be at the table and near the host. This is not a matter of access to food, but of social prestige. It is a little like wanting to sit at the head table at an awards banquet that features visiting dignitaries. Sitting in a highly visible position not only reflects one's social status but also adds to it.
In New Testament times, the seating arrangement at gatherings indicated much about the honor and respect extended to those present. At dinner feasts, the closer one sat to the host, the higher the honor. The seat to the right of the host was a place of special honor, with the seat to the left next in rank (see Matt. 20:20-21). Other seats were ranked in descending honor. To be left standing, or seated around the edges of the room, was the humblest position of all (see James 2:3-4).
To emphasize the importance of humility, Jesus told a parable involving those present receiving an invitation to a wedding feast. He urged them to resist the temptation to recline in the place of honor (Luke 14:8). Jesus raised the possibility that the host might ask a guest who had presumptuously taken one of the best spots to vacate it for someone else who was more distinguished or highly respected. Social convention would then require that the person who had been publicly disgraced move to a place of least importance (for example, whatever spot was left at the foot of the table; v. 9).
2. How does Jesus’ advice about the place we assume at a gathering relate to a principle He taught about God's kingdom? (Luke 14:10, 11)
Jesus gives very practical advice: rather than risk the embarrassment of being asked to give up a place of honor, begin instead at a more humble place. If this strategy is followed, there is not only no risk of humiliation, but also there is the possibility of being promoted to a higher place at the table, a public honor. Proverbs 25:6, 7 indicates this as well. The Pharisees, who pride themselves in their meticulous attention to the law, should already know this!
But Jesus is offering far more than social advice here. His parable is intended to compare this situation with a principle in God's kingdom: the self-promoting person will eventually be humbled, whereas the person who acts with humility will eventually be honored (exalted). This is an example of what is sometimes called "the great reversal" in the Bible. The world teaches us to push to the front, to seek honor and glory, but God overturns the world's rules and expectations.
Ultimate honor is a gift of God that is not earned through striving for attention. God honors the humble, not the proud (see Luke 1:52; 18:9-14; 1 Peter 5:5). True exaltation is for God and from God, not a gift we bestow on ourselves (1 Samuel 2:7).
The Admonition to Be Generous (Luke 14:12-14)
3. What advice did Jesus give to the host? (Luke 14:12-14)
Perhaps Jesus was one of those seated in a place of honor near the head of the table. If so, we can imagine Him turning to His host to emphasize the importance of showing unconditional generosity. For instance, when the leader of the Pharisees hosted a dinner or a banquet, Jesus urged him to break with social convention. The goal should not be to invite friends, close family members, other relatives, or rich neighbors (in other words, the powerful and well-to-do), who would feel obliged to extend an invitation in return as a repayment for the display of hospitality (Luke 14:12).
Instead, when planning an elaborate meal, the host was urged to invite people who did not have the means or the ability to reciprocate—“the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind” (v. 13). God would take note of and approve this display of unselfish graciousness. He would also eternally bless His followers for acting in this way. Jesus noted that even though the kind and caring host would receive no recompense from his or her guests, God would reward him or her at the resurrection of the righteous (see Dan. 12:2; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15). The latter event would occur at the return of the Messiah, who would sit on His glorious throne and honor those who served others in His name (see Matt. 25:31-46).
What Do You Think?
What would have to happen for you to do as Jesus says in verses 13, 14?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Dealing with your family's comfort zone | Dealing with "what others may think"
Creating intentional ministry to "the despised" of your community | Other
POINTS TO PONDER
1. We should willingly humble ourselves at the outset rather than wait for God to do something to bring us to the place of humility. (See Luke 14:7-11).
2. Jesus taught that there is a greater blessing when we welcome those who are unwelcome or inconvenient to love to our table. (See Luke 14:12-14).
Avoiding the Spotlight
High-profile athletes are rarely known for their humility. The sports star who acts with humility seems to be the odd exception. One such exception was Roger Maris. In 1961, Maris gained national attention because he was hitting home runs at a pace to break Babe Ruth's record of 60 home runs in a single season. On October 1, 1961, Maris smashed a pitch over the right-field wall of Yankee Stadium, and the record was broken.
If you look this up on the Internet and watch the video of the event, you won't see Maris high-stepping around the bases or calling attention to himself. He looks almost embarrassed as he rounds third base and ducks straight into the dugout. A few seconds later, he reappears to acknowledge the applause of the crowd, but he seems to have been shoved into view by his teammates.
Jesus taught that we should not seek to exalt ourselves. We should take humble positions of service with joy and grace. Paul reminds us that even though Jesus was God, He became like a servant so that we might be saved through His death on the cross (Philippians 2:6-8). May we constantly and consistently examine our lives for ungodly pride and find ways to serve others with humility motivated by Christlike love.
Expanding the Circle
Ask yourself a few questions as you consider this lesson. Is my church a welcoming place for people with disabilities? Do I welcome a diversity of races and nationalities in my church? Do I have a desire to share the gospel with those who are not like me? God is the Lord of people of all shapes, sizes, languages, ages, and skin color. Should we be any less welcoming than He?
Heavenly Father, may we walk with You in humility and with a heart for serving others. Help us conquer our prideful hearts. We pray in Jesus' name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Open the doors of your church a little wider.