We are all at some point struck with the want to feel and be important, to look good in the eyes of other people. There is this basic sociological drive to impress others. If we are driven by the desire to always ‘look good’ and be more important in comparison to others, what does it say about us?
What does Jesus speak into this desire of putting on a persona of ‘looking good’ and wanting ‘importance’ by other people.
In Luke 14:7-11, Jesus mentions a parable on being humble. It is always interesting to note the specific context that triggers the teaching that comes via the parable.
Jesus was at a prominent Pharisees house for dinner and he sees them picking the places of honour to sit and in response to what He sees, Jesus mentions the parable to teach and admonish.
Luke 14:7-11 “When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Not just the Pharisees, but we also see that the disciples have a similar issue when they break into an argument during the last supper about who was considered to be the greatest (Luke 22:24).
Pride is arguably the most dangerous of sins. We see that Satan himself displayed pride when he said “I will make myself the Most High. (Isaiah 14:14)”
As Christians we constantly battle pride and strive to grow in humility.
True humility does not crave the praise of other people, it only desires the praise of God.
John the Baptist was a man who portrayed this sort of true humility. In John 3:26, we read about some of John’s disciples telling him that the one he testified about (Jesus) was also baptising and everyone was going to him. They were Jealous on John’s behalf.
- This was John the Baptist whom Jesus himself called the greatest among men (Mathew 11:11 “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen
anyone greater than John the Baptist”).
- This was John the Baptist who was filled with the spirit even in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15 “and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.”).
This was John the Baptist who had the important role of preparing the way for the Lord (Luke1:17, And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” v76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him).
He had a multitude of reasons to feel prideful, yet his response is a lesson in humility to all of us.
He replies “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.”
I love the ESV version that says “He must increase and I must decrease.”
John the Baptist shows us that:
- He found his Joy not in the number of people who flocked to or followed him but only in the Lord.
- His found satisfaction not from garnering earthly accolades or accomplishment but by fulfilling the purpose God set out for him.
- He was aware that his part to play in the kingdom’s purpose was not the reward but the Lord himself is his ultimate reward.
He understood that it is not about him but all about Christ.
We all love and desire for Jesus to increase in our lives but struggle with the ‘I must decrease’. Only when we decrease, will we not be a hindrance to His work in and through us.
Humility stems from understanding who God is and who we are.
He is the one who comes from above and is above all (John 3:31).
In the parable in Luke 14 Jesus says in verse 11″For everyone who exalts themselves will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This sentence indicates a foreshadowing of what Jesus later does on the cross where he is humbled and then exalted through the resurrection. This sentence also teaches us that to know God and to experience the fullness of His kingdom, there requires to be a humbling of self.
Jesus practised and modelled true humility. He showed us what it means to live as people of God – to exalt God and others.
C. S Lewis once said “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
May we not crave the praise and titles of men but a smile of approval and a word of appreciation from God. And may we decrease so that HE can increase.