Humility and Hospitality

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Jeremiah 2:4-13 • Psalm 81:1, 10-16 • Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16 • Luke 14:1, 7-14

14 One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely.

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

12 Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”

Luke 14:7-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

This is a wonderful gospel lesson for this week’s devotional. We have been working our way through the Gospel of Luke during this season that follows Pentecost. Jesus has been invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner. It happens that this dinner is on the Sabbath and again Jesus sees a man in need and heals him. Luke only records that Jesus healed him, but doesn’t indicate the reaction of the Pharisee – especially in light that it was the Sabbath.

With the healing over, Luke turns his focus to Jesus’ words. We learn that those who were at the dinner table were competing for top billing. In the culture, when you were seated near the host, it meant you were a special guest. Jesus takes note that the guests were seating themselves and vying for the place of honor. We are reminded that we don’t know exactly what a host is thinking in making the seating chart. Jesus says the best thing to do is go for the place of least honor. That way, you won’t be embarrassed when the host moves you to a place of lesser honor.

This really points again to the upside down nature of the Kingdom of God. Jesus told us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Jesus says, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (vs. 11) This is much different than the way we think.

These words come to mind when Paul quotes and ancient hymn in Philippians 2

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

Jesus even demonstrated this behavior when He washed the disciples feet. Not only does Jesus remind us to be humble, but He reminds us to show hospitality to all. Often when we show hospitality, we do it to those who are our friends…those who might give us good influence. We all know the saying, “It’s not what you know but who you know.”

James, the half-brother of Jesus writes these words in his letter:

My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?

For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives?

Listen to me, dear brothers and sisters. Hasn’t God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith? Aren’t they the ones who will inherit the Kingdom he promised to those who love him? But you dishonor the poor! Isn’t it the rich who oppress you and drag you into court? Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

Jesus calls us to take care of the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. We are to avoid favoritism because Jesus commands us to avoid it. In this short passage Jesus reminds us – his followers to be like Him – to be humble and to show hospitality – not necessarily to those whom we think deserve it but (many times) to those whom we think least deserve it.

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