Summer of Hospitality #12 - Be a Humble Guest

Luke 14:7-11
“When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: "If you are invited to a wedding feast, don't always head for the best seat. What if someone more respected than you has also been invited? The host will say, `Let this person sit here instead.' Then you will be embarrassed and will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! "Do this instead--sit at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, `Friend, we have a better place than this for you!' Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored."

In the culture of the Middle East at that time, when a family hosted a great banquet or a wedding feast, they would have the servants set up round tables for the meal. Cushions were set up in a U-shape around three sides of the table so that three people could recline at each table. The place of honor was in the center of each U-shape, the next highest to the left, and the last to the right. So in any given feast the host might have as many places of honor as tables set up. Everyone knew what seat was the place of honor among the three seats. Normally all the guests would stand around until the host came in and pointed out who was to sit in the places of honor. Jesus uses a feast to demonstrate a spiritual principle that "everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted."

We don't know how many people were in the Pharisee's home that Sabbath afternoon, but we do know that they did not wait for the word from the host, but almost rushed to the tables to take the places of honor. Jesus may have been thinking of Proverbs 25:6-7: "Do not claim honor in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of great men; for it is better that it be said to you, "Come up here, than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen." The host and the other people could not see that this man Jesus really was the King of the universe, for He was clothed in the robes of a servant, waiting for the host to tell Him where to sit. Jesus wanted to use this parable to demonstrate that these spiritual leaders of Israel were not interested in humbling themselves. They were interested only in their own power, position, and pride. So they rushed to the places of honor; they didn't ask the host where to sit, but just took what they each thought was their rightful place, and ended up fighting over the places of honor.

What can we learn from all this? When it comes to hospitality, it’s just as important to learn how to be a good guest as it is to learn how to be a gracious host! Phillipians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” When we’re invited to someone’s home, go with an attitude of humility. Don’t make yourself the center of attention or try to be the “life of the party.” God wants us to live our lives in humility before Him rather than spending time seeking to exalt ourselves or think of ourselves as more important than we are! Go out of your way to build up and encourage your brother or sister in Christ. Be “other-minded!” Regard them as more important than yourself. Give them honor. When we enter others' homes with this kind of attitude, one of humility, men and women can approach us without being turned off by our selfish pride or desire to be the center of attention. They can find out who we are so that there's life and conversation. And in that conversation there may be great opportunity to build community, to encourage each other, and to build each other up, just by our attitude and the way we carry ourselves.