A Study in True Humility
O Lord God, our blessed Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter, we come before You in worship with this prayer. Open our ears to the truths of Your word. Open our consciences to revelations of Your law. Open our hearts to the message of Your love. Open our lives to the influence of Your Spirit. Bless us this day, even as we sing praises to Your holy name. Amen.
Solomon urges us to use our gifts with humility as we serve within our individual callings. To promote ourselves unduly can and often does bring shame.
Pride leads us to think only of ourselves. Genuine humility leads us to live lives of loving concern for others—strangers, prisoners, our spouses, neighbors, and those who serve us spiritually.
Text: Luke 14:1, 7-14
Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely…. So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come, and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be abased, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back , and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
In Christ Jesus, whose example of humility we are encouraged to follow, dear fellow redeemed:
I read an article recently about the American runners at the Olympic Games. Two of the athletes mentioned in the article were Maurice Green and Allyson Felix. Maurice Green was the 100 meter gold medalist at the Sydney games four years ago and was favored to win that race again this year at Athens. Allyson Felix, an eighteen year old graduate of tiny Los Angeles Baptist High School, was entered in the 200 meter race and was simply delighted to be at the games. Maurice Green has a tattoo featuring the letters “g,” “o,” “a,” and “t,” which means “greatest of all time”. He was determined to prove that boast, but did not, winning only the bronze medal. Allyson Felix, however, ended up taking the silver medal. Having never met Maurice Green, I do not know whether he is a humble man, but his tattoo would suggest that he is not. Allyson Felix, on the other hand, is quoted in the article as saying, “The Lord Jesus Christ is the reason I run. It is a gift from Him and in everything I do I want to glorify Him. That is true humility!
My dear friends, very few people in our world possess true humility. Even fewer understand it. Yet humility is such an important Christian virtue, and it is a virtue our Lord wants us to exercise. Let us consider today A STUDY IN TRUE HUMILITY learning from both the words and example of our Savior. We will learn, first of all, that true humility does not seek its own welfare, and, secondly, that true humility does seek the welfare of others!
The first verse of our text provides the context for Jesus’ words of instruction. He was invited to the home of a leading Pharisee for a Sabbath meal. We are also told that Jesus was being “watched…closely,” which would suggest that Jesus was not invited merely as a friend by a friend, but rather that the Pharisees were looking for something with which to fault Jesus. Such an opportunity arose, for there at the meal was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus, knowing that the Pharisees would accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath were He to heal the man, asked those present, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Verse 3) When they did not answer Jesus went on to ask them, “Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?” (Verse 5) He then healed the man, while all in attendance remained too ashamed to comment.
Jesus, however, had also been watching the other guests and had noticed that they all “chose the best places” around the table of their host. He, therefore, told those present a parable, “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come, and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.” It must be said immediately that Jesus is not suggesting reverse psychology in an attempt to gain personal advantage—pretend to be humble so that you will get the best seat that you really wanted in the first place! No, Jesus is pointing out that true humility does not seek its own welfare! A person with true humility will not seek the best seat, for that person does not need that seat, or the honor that goes with it, but is only too willing to allow someone else the privilege.
In our Wednesday evening Bible study we have been discussing C.S. Lewis’ book Screwtape Letters, which is a consideration of Satan’s methods of temptation. Last Wednesday we considered the true nature of humility and how Satan can and does often seek to undermine it. Lewis defines humility as “self-forgetfulness”—that quality of being so sure of who you are in Christ that you are not worried about yourself or concerned that you receive your due, but rather, with complete trust in God’s ability to take care of you, you forget yourself.
Jesus Himself is the perfect example of that, is He not! The apostle Paul tells us, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant” (Philippians 2:5-7a). Jesus was true God, possessing all power and glory. He could have been born in a palace, but chose to be born in a barn. Jesus could have enjoyed all of the riches of creation, for they belonged to Him as the Creator-God, yet we are told that He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus could have come down from the cross, when He was taunted and thereby avoided further personal torment, but He remained there to fulfill His Father’s will. He could have refused the indignity of death, yet we are told that He lay down His life so that He might later take it back again (cf. John 10:17).
True humility is not a lack of self-confidence, nor does it involve false modesty. Satan would like us to focus our attention on ourselves—to make us think that in order to be humble we must consider our talents to be less important and valuable than those possessed by others. He would have us think that humility is equivalent to a poor self-image, which denies our God-given gifts, which might even be quite extraordinary. True humility is none of that. True humility does not focus on self. True humility is “self-forgetfulness.” It rejoices in what God has created within us and done for us—just like young Allyson Felix, who recognized her running ability as a gift from God, which she in turn wanted to use to the best of her ability for His glory! True humility involves seeing yourself as God sees you—the person He created, the person He redeemed, the person He is sanctifying, the person He is protecting, the person He is guiding, the person He loves, and a person He has destined to live in His presence. With such an understanding of self, true humility arises within the framework of thanksgiving to God. Such a humility does not seek its own welfare, for its welfare is object of God Himself, who has promised in love to bring our way to pass, as we commit ourselves to Him (cf. Psalm 37:5).
Yes, let us listen to our Savior as He provides us A STUDY IN TRUE HUMILITY! He tells us, secondly, true humility seeks the welfare of others! Jesus sought the welfare of the man with dropsy there at the dinner to which He was invited. He risked the condemnation of the Pharisees and other guests by going against the man-made religious conventions of the day. He went on, however, with His instruction on humility by addressing His host with these words, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Once again, it must be said, lest Jesus be misunderstood—He is not saying you cannot gather your family together for a meal on special occasions. Rather, He is addressing our hearts and saying that true humility seeks the welfare of others—doing things to help others, rather than calculating what is in it for oneself.
Again, Jesus provides a wonderful example. Jesus was not a social climber—He was after all true God and the ruler of all! But knowing who He was and being committed to the work God had sent Him completely freed Him to look beyond Himself so that He could serve the needs of others. When you consider, for instance, the Gospel accounts which discuss Jesus’ ministry, they all stress how Jesus constantly fulfilled the needs of others. Luke says, “When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one other them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of God!’ And He, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that He was the Christ” (4:40-41). Had Jesus been seeking greater personal fame and worldly recognition, He would have hired a public relations director to make sure everyone knew what He was doing, but He did not. In fact, He frequently urged even those who received His blessings to say nothing.
Jesus’ point, then, for His host that day and for us, is that as we live our lives, we are to strive to exercise true humility in everything that we do. That means that we seek the welfare of others. If we prepare a meal, our purpose when making up the guest list should not be who can I invite who will in turn invite me back. Rather, we ought ask ourselves who might be blessed by such a meal—not just by the food that will be served, but perhaps even more importantly by the fellowship that will be enjoyed. When we purchase a gift for someone, let us not do so to ingratiate ourselves with that person, so that we might somehow profit from them someday, but rather let us do so out of genuine love and with a desire to bring that person joy and blessing.
The apostle Paul told the Corinthians, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Corinthians 10:24). The secret to being able to do that once again lies in recognizing, as did Jesus, who we are. We are by faith the sons and daughters of a great King, the LORD Himself. Our heavenly Father has promised to watch over us, to care for us, and to provide for our every need. We do not, therefore, constantly have to be protecting our turf. or demanding our rights, or securing our welfare. Remember, Jesus encourages us with this promise, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Let us remember who we are by God’s grace and strive to do all that God would have us do. If we as God’s children seek the welfare of others while we are in this world—thus taking the lowest spot at the wedding feast; if during our journey through life we concern ourselves with helping those less fortunate than ourselves—rest assured that our heavenly Father will indeed bless us in heaven when all that we hope for will become the eternity we will experience! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting