August 28, 2022 |Exposing Pride| Luke 14:7-11
This week in our study of the gospel of Luke, we come to a very similar encounter as what we looked at last week with the healing of the crippled woman in the Synagogue on the Sabbath.
The setting has changed, this takes place in a Pharisees home, the lead up is different, Jesus is not simply encountering the person who needs healing as he goes about his ministry, the religious leaders are trying to set him up, but the pattern is the same, Jesus restoring those who need it on the Sabbath.
However, the narrative moves quickly from that brief encounter to dealing with a much deeper issue, perhaps even the issue that led the religious leaders to set Jesus up in the first place.
Jesus, after observing the behavior of the guests, tells a parable and then gives a kingdom principle concerning pride. It is that parable and principle we will spend our time together this morning examining.
We find the context of this encounter in verse 1 of Luke 14.
Luke 14:1 (ESV) 1 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.
By the time Jesus tells this parable, things are already tense. As we have noted, the whole thing is most likely a set-up. Jesus is invited to a religious leader’s house, on the Sabbath, and there just happens to be a man there with a debilitating disease, the Bible names as dropsy, which is a swelling of the body caused from the retention of water. It can be painful and limiting to movement and quality of life. Seeing through their set-up, Jesus asks a provocative question.
(ESV) “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?”
Then when none could answer, he healed the man, sent him on his way, and revealed the hypocrisy of the religious elites. Luke 14:5-6 (ESV) “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?” 6 And they could not reply to these things.
As people get over the shock, and are hoping to get past the uncomfortableness of the moment, they begin to seat themselves for dinner.
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) This was a major social event: a dinner party hosted by the wealthiest man in town, with a well-known public figure in attendance. In all likelihood, the table was arranged in a U-shaped formation, with the host sitting at the center and the guests sitting on cushions or low couches on either side. The best places were the ones right next to the host, on his right and his left. After that, the best place to sit was as close to the host as one could get.
As Jesus watched these men who claimed to be righteous and God-fearing, who had just come from their Sabbath worship, vie for positions and places of honor, he saw them for what they were, selfish, prideful men.
“The Pharisees and scribes, despite all their god-talk and religious posturing, were a selfish, self-seeking, ambitious lot. Selfishness always reduces the importance of others and enlarges the importance of one’s own life.” Kent Hughes
Likely many of us have seen similar situations. Men and women vying for the best seat, the best deal, to be first in line. Right?
It’s the guy who gets up immediately when the plane lands and moves to the front despite the instructions to remain seated, it is the person who waits until the last possible minute to merge over despite the two miles of warnings of lane closures. All this posturing, all this positioning because ‘I am important and therefore I deserve the best seat’ as it were in this situation.
All this posturing, all this positioning because ‘I am important and therefore I deserve...
The Reformed Expository Commentary paints the picture this way, ‘As Jesus watched the guests gather for dinner, he noticed the subtle and not-so-subtle ways they inched their way closer to the best seats in the house. It is easy to imagine the scene: one man engaging the host in close conversation so as to be right next to him when the call came for dinner; another man sauntering to the head of the table, or casually placing his hand on the low sofa where the host would sit with his most honored guests. They all wanted the best seat in the house. They did it so smoothly that some people might not even notice. But as Jesus watched them make their moves, he could see what they were really doing. He knew that behind their seeming indifference lurked a selfish intention. The close conversation with the host was a social maneuver. The casual hand on the low sofa was a calculated grasp for public recognition.’
It was this observation that caused Jesus to address the totality of the dinner party by telling this parable.
Luke 14:7-11 (ESV) 7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “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, 9 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.”
This is not the first time Jesus has addressed this issue with the Pharisees. Luke 11:43-44 (ESV) 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”
Jesus reserved his strongest rebukes for those whose lives were filled with pride.
Here in this parable Jesus exposes the underlying issue of all this maneuvering for the best seats.
The Root of Pride Revealed
All of this maneuvering and seat choosing came down to one core heart issue. Pride. The desire to elevate oneself so that everyone can see and acknowledge your specialness.
The Bible often addresses the sin of pride, throughout the wisdom literature of proverbs pride comes up again and again, Jesus himself addresses it many times, and almost every writer that contributed to the cannon of the New Testament epistles mentions pride. Not only is it explicitly warned against, and even listed as one of the things God hates, Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) 16 There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes…, we find the devastating effects of it throughout scripture.
Adam and Eve- exalted to know better than God, cast out of the garden, spiritually separated from God
Cain- exiled because he killed Abel because his pride was wounded that God accepted Abel’s sacrifice.
Moses- exalted to strike the rock, did not see the promised land
David- exalted to take what he wanted with Bathsheba, resulting in grief and pain throughout the remainder of his life
Nebuchadnezzar- exalted his importance, humbled as an animal
Peter- exalted to never forsake Jesus, denied him to a servant girl
When asked the question ‘What is the great sin? What sin is worse than any other? C.S. Lewis responded on a Radio segment that later, along with others segments, were combined into the book ’Mere Christianity. Said this.
“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which everyone in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else and of which hardly any people, except Christians, ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others.
According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison. It was through pride that the Devil became the Devil: Pride leads to every other vice. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.” Chapter 8 - "The Great Sin" - C.S. Lewis
(We will return to Lewis a few times because he so brilliantly and precisely dealt with the issue of pride)
Herein lies the problem for us today, the world does not only not view pride as a vice, but most often as a virtue. We are encouraged to be proud, to look out for number one, to get what we deserve, right? There is nothing more dangerous than for a follower of Jesus to buy into this lie and cultivate a prideful heart which is the root of much of the sin in our world and in our very own lives. This is a serious matter and we would do well to take seriously what Jesus teaches here.
Jesus’ parable warning encapsulates the very wisdom of Proverbs 25.
Proverbs 25:6-7 (ESV) 6 Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great, 7 for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.
In Jesus’ parable, a man arriving at a dinner party, surveys the scene and comparing himself to the others that have been invited decides that he should be at the place of honor, so he sits, thoroughly enjoying all the jealous eyes that are suddenly on him. Now everyone will know that he is important. Just then the host comes in and comes up to the man, hoping to be greeted in a manner deserving of his place, he is instead asked to give his seat up for someone more important, and with the table being now full, there is only the lowest place for him to sit.
Can you feel the second hand embarrassment for this man?
He just knew he was in the right seat!
This is how many of us live our lives, trying to attain social status equal to what we think we deserve. The corner office, the impressive title, the car, the clothes, etc…
Jesus says at the root of all of this maneuvering and posturing is a prideful heart, someone who exalts themselves.
Now, surely, we can all agree to have been guilty of this in subtle and not so subtle ways from time to time. The real problem is when this becomes the posture of our heart, the pattern of our life, when we let pride run rampant and what people think of us, how people see us, becomes the driving force in our life. Or worse, as C.S. Lewis goes on to point out, we stop caring what other people think, not because we are humble, but because we are so full of our own grand opinion of ourselves that there is no room to think of anyone else.
The warning here is that when we exalt ourselves we are exposing that we have a pride issue. Next we see…
The Foolishness of Pride Explained
The parable was meant to not only expose the pride behind what they were all doing, but to further illustrate the foolishness of it all.
Listen- if your self-identity is wrapped up in comparing yourself to others, being better than someone else, having more than someone else, there will always be someone more important, smarter, richer, better looking, or more distinguished than you somewhere. And since you never know when you are going to encounter that person, your elevated sense of self will always be in danger.
if your self-identity is wrapped up in comparing yourself to others, being better than someone else, having more than someone else, there will always be someone more important, smarter, richer, better looking, or more distinguished than you somewhere
And let’s for a moment pretend that you are the wisest, smartest, richest, most attractive, important person in the world, all that matters very little when you stand before the creator of the universe.
C.S. Lewis, in the same talk says this
“In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that—and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison—you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
The bible says ‘it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,’
Listen, you can spend your life occupying every seat of honor you can find to fill and in the end you will come before the only seat that matters, and you will find it occupied by the king of kings and lord of lords.
You can have men and women praise you, wish they were you, and in the end, the only opinion that matters will be whether or not Jesus knows you as his own or not.
Pride is foolish because the outcome of a prideful life is to be humbled.
Those who exalt themselves will be humbled…This is the principle Jesus gives here.
He teaches this principle in another place a little later in Luke, which I think would be beneficial for us to briefly look at.
Luke 18:9-14 (ESV) 9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: (we can sum it up, he told this parable to the prideful) 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
In Jesus parable about choosing a seat, the humility is simply being embarrassed in front of a dinner party, in this parable being humbled is realizing that you wasted your life inflating your sense of self only to find out that you are a poor wretched miserable sinner that is alienated from God and finds nothing but condemnation in His presence.
What is the answer? ...those who humble themselves will be exalted. The next thing we see is…
The Antidote of Pride Disclosed
Jesus gives a better way, take the lowest place and let someone else decide that you need to move up higher, let someone else decide to honor you.
In this parable, Jesus says it is much better to take the lowest seat and if someone asks you to move up, great, if not great, because where you sit is not an important matter to you. You need not be propped up by praise because you do not desire it.
It is important for us to not, Jesus is not advocating a false humility that takes a lower seat in order to be asked to move up. Jesus consistently condemned false piety and humility. The motive for taking the lowest seat is not to advance but because rather than being proud, you are humble.
I shared a quote from Lewis on Wednesday night ‘humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less’. Let me add the greater context for that quote.
‘Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call 'humble' nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably, all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”
Humility is having a right estimation of yourself, an estimation rooted not in how we feel, or what the world says, but what the word of God says about us.
That we are sinful, fallen human beings, that at our very best, apart from God, our works are like filthy rags in God’s eyes, that apart from the sanctifying work of the holy spirit we are desperately sinful, desperately wicked, desperately self-centered individuals destined for eternal damnation.
Furthermore, that every good thing in us after salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit and a gift from God.
As a matter of fact, unless we come to that place of humility, we cannot enter the kingdom of God, because we can only be saved when we realize that there is nothing in us worth saving, nothing we can do to be saved, but throw ourselves on the mercy and grace of a God who loved us in spite of ourselves enough to pay the price for our sins.
we can only be saved when we realize that there is nothing in us worth saving
The real question is, how can someone who has come to that place and cried out to God ever turn around and live a prideful life? I’m not sure the answer is all together comforting.
To quote Lewis one more time, he says this, “I am afraid it means they are worshiping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a pennyworth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound's worth of Pride towards their fellow-men.”
So here we are friends, faced with this unavoidable reality that Jesus stated so clearly; those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted, and we have to ask, do I find the position of my heart to be one of exalting myself or humbling myself?
Is my understanding of myself that I am a wretched sinner in need of saving or someone who deserves praise, it cannot be both.
Pride is something that we all will battle from time to time, at least in my limited experience, I have not been able to fully conquer it. It creeps up when I least expect it, and I suspect it is that way for some of you too.
But I worry that for some, pride is not a battle, it is simply a way of life.
My prayer is that God would reveal the hidden pride in our lives, expose the foolishness of it, and help us live with humility before him.
The Bible says in Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV) 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.
The only difference is that some will do it this side of heaven in humility and they will be raised in the last day and exalted to be with God forever, and those who refuse to bow and confess this side of heaven and their last act before being sent out of God’s presence into an eternal damnation will be to acknowledge that their pride was misplaced, that indeed there is none greater than Jesus and their self-exaltation was a horrible mistake.