Luke 14:1-11 (ESV)

14 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things. Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus ate dinner in the home of a ruler of the Pharisees on the Sabbath. Present at the meal was a man who had dropsy, which would have caused his body to swell. Those with dropsy were traditionally seen as unclean. The Pharisees closely watched Jesus, probably staging everything to “catch” Jesus doing good deeds on the Sabbath. But Jesus chose to heal the man, and before the accusations began to fly, Jesus simply asked them, if their own children or oxen fell into a well, whether they would leave the children or animals there because it was the Sabbath. There was nothing the critics could say. The tables turned, and instead of Jesus being watched by them, he observed those present. He noticed how they ran for the best spots at the table. At that time, the tables were U-shaped, and the host would sit at the bottom of the U. The seats to the right and the left of the host were considered the most honored. Jesus instructed them not to rush to the honored spots. How awkward if someone more honored showed up later, and the host told those seated to get up and sit somewhere else! By that time, they would be stuck with the worst seats in the house. Instead, they should begin by taking the worst seats. Most likely, the host would spot this and suggest they move up. They would be honored in the presence of all the guests and not be shamed by needing to move down.

Though the parable can seem strange, the point is clear. It is wise to be humble. It would be better to have another recognize your worth than to assume your own worth and be embarrassed when others don’t agree with your self-estimation. Jesus ended by saying, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” This is also true in our relationship with God. We are to come before him in humility, recognizing that even the least honorable spots are more than we deserve. Jesus humbly entered, humbly lived in, and humbly left our world. He asks us to follow in his footsteps. One day, Jesus will publicly get the seat of honor, and he will bring his followers to the table with him. Choose to humble yourself before God today, giving attention to him and to others.