logo Living Water Christian Fellowship logo
Home Recent Sermon Multimedia Sermons News & Events Our Vision Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

"Banquetiquette: The Honour of Humility"

Sept.1/13 Lk.14:1,7-14


Jesus said (Lk 14:8a), "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour..." Hmm - a wedding feast; seems to me we had one of those recently! Our daughter was married just under a month ago. Yvonne & I were honoured in that Allison & Philipp wanted their parents to be seated with them at the head table. We protested, "No, that's where the wedding party's supposed to sit" - bridesmaids and groomsmen - but the bride & groom wanted their parents instead, so that's what they got. It was really an honour to be seated there, up at the focus of all the attention. We got to go through the food line first; and we had a clear view of all the goings-on, while some of the other guests had to turn around to see the speakers or the screen. There were definite advantages to being at the head table, the places of honour. But I must admit while I sat there enjoying the proceedings, I realized there was one drawback to the arrangement - apart from Yvonne on my right, I had no one to talk to! Whereas those in the "general seating" had guests beside and across from them with which to converse.

Picking the places of honour can be tempting - but there may be unseen downsides. In today's reading, Jesus has advice for those aspiring to exalted places and prominent positions: the advantages can be strictly short-term.


Chapter 14 begins, "One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched." He'd had previous run-ins with the Pharisees, the elite Jewish religious sect; in 7:39 they were shocked that He allowed a "sinful woman" to even touch Him; in 7:49 they were flabbergasted that He pronounced forgiveness of sins, elevating Himself (in their minds) to the position of God. Then in chapter 11(39-44) Jesus had declared repeated "woes" on the Pharisees and teachers of the law for their greed, legalism, and selfishness. Consequently, 11:53f tells us, they "began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say." They were out for blood!

So why, now, in chapter 14, has Jesus accepted an invitation from one of their leaders? Doesn't He know He's walking into a trap? He had a choice to accept the invitation or not - why didn't He simply decline? I would have stayed well away simply to protect myself! But Jesus must figure He's up to the challenge (with the Father's help), because He ventures into the lions' den.

14:1 says "He was being carefully watched." Robertson notes, "watched insidiously, with evil intent." What's Jesus going to do - play it safe? Lay low? No, in vv2-4 He heals a man suffering from dropsy, a condition in which body cavities swelled with fluid, perhaps from a kidney or liver ailment such as cancer. He demonstrates very overtly His sovereignty and divinity, He's unafraid to rock their theological tunnel-vision. Jesus is making a point that, contrary to the Pharisees' legal pickiness, it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. In verse 5 He uses words (in addition to His actions) to highlight their hearts' need, their foolishness in being bound by rules without love. They're rendered speechless.

Notice how verse 7 begins: "When He noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table..." Who's watching WHOM now? The watched has become the Watcher. God notices OUR behaviour, our choices. God sees and knows us intimately! Psalm 94:9 "Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see?" There are parts of your eye that are "irreducibly complex", that pure chance wouldn't have cobbled together from partial precursors. The Designer who gave you your senses can see you. God asks in Jeremiah 23(24), "Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD." There's no hiding from God! He sees and knows all we do. He notices what choices we're making. When like the Pharisees we suppose we've got God on trial, He turns the tables!


It's a common temptation to want to be "moving up in the world" - advertising beckons us to get one up on the neighbours, hinting we'll really be somebody if we look the best, or buy the shiniest and latest. But before you sell your soul to 'move up in the world', consider how the Bible views the world: 1John 2:15f, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-- thee l cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-- comes not from the Father but from the world." In more literal terms, there are 3 things in the world: the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. "Look at me! Look at what I've got! See how great I am!" - this is all making much of ourselves, exalting ourselves, boastful pride.

We love to be first in line. At the wedding reception, the emcees held a contest to determine the order in which tables (other than the head table) would be dismissed to go through the buffet line. There was considerable excitement and energy directed to trying to win the contest so your table would get to go next. One challenge was to bring up a diaper - in that case, someone grabbed the whole child and carried them to the front!

We are constantly, even unconciously, "jockeying for position" - such as trying to get in a better position to merge in traffic. On the way home from Alisha's baptism at Elim Lodge, I was behind the Lisles and Palmers for a while, until we came to a place where I could take a shortcut. I emerged a little later as "the leader of the pack" - I was thrilled and chortling to myself! For at least 20 minutes until I took a wrong turn on a detour and they wisely chose not to follow my lead!

Ah, how we love first place. V7 Jesus "noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table..." Roman custom of the day involved lying at low tables using cushions on your left side propped up on your elbow; this made the place to the host's right the position of honour, as the host's back was to the person on their left. Jesus responded in vv8-9, "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 man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place." Don't be so quick to head for the best spot; you might be in for some embarrassment if the host decides to re-assign your sport to somebody else! That could leave you feeling pretty ashamed.

Jesus' saying echoes Proverbs 25(6f), "Do not exalt yourself in the king's presence, and do not claim a place among great men; it is better for him to say to you, 'Come up here,' than for him to humiliate you before a nobleman." Exalting oneself risks humiliation, embarrassment - should someone with more authority than you judge matters differently. Self-promotion and aggressiveness can result in shame.

The MTV's "Video Music Awards" are designed to honour what the industry and fans consider the best in that medium each year. To appear and perform at the VMA is a great honour, considering millions watch it each year. Did Miley Cyrus' performance feature self-promotion but end up in humiliation and shame, given the lewdness of her actions? (I did not watch the video but read some articles and saw some photos.) Gone is the clean kid-friendly Disney-esque "Hannah Montana" image. In trying to exalt herself, did Cyrus instead shame herself? A Ravi Zacharias podcast I listened to this week cautioned that atheists will be resorting more and more to "shock" techniques - when morality goes, what's left but thrills?

Jesus' way is different; it involves in voluntarily taking the lowest place. V10 "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 your fellow guests." What's really honourable is to humble oneself, to take the lowest place, to serve others rather than try to upstage them. Php 2(5-11) Jesus "made Himself nothing", took the nature of a servant, humbled Himself to death on a cross! Therefore "God exalted Him..." The apostle Paul describes this in Romans 15(3), "For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me."" He let the insults and shame and penalty WE deserved fall on HIM instead.

We experience this grace when others humble themselves to serve us. At the Collingwood resort where Yvonne & I spent a couple of nights for our anniversary, I was in line to check in when an employee passing by mentioned I'd need my licence plate number, which I didn't know because we'd borrowed a kind person's vehicle when ours went on the blink! Seeing my "uh oh" expression, the employee volunteered to keep my place in line while I dashed outside and got the licence plate number.

Or, we were very blessed by many helpers leading up to the wedding, which was outdoors at our home. A groomsman who's a maintenance professional at a Prairie Bible Institute showed up at our door and I immediately set him to work cutting our lawn. Other groomsmen trimmed bushes and tied on ribbons. Other people (including some from our congregation) spent long hours in our flowerbeds so they'd look perfect for the day. So many helpers behind the scenes made me (the host) "look good", their efforts exalted us - for which we're very thankful. Their attitude when they showed up was, "How can we help? Put us to work! Show us where we can make ourselves useful." Many of them I'd never even met before! They were doing this, NOT because they owed me anything or I had done something to deserve it, but out of their fondness for Allison and Philipp. So Jesus humbled Himself, took the lower place, became nothing for you because of God's love for YOU!

In v11 Jesus shares a general principle that's found several times in Scripture (Lk 18:14; Mt 23:12; cf Prov 15:33, 18:12): "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

WHY are we so bent on exalting / "making much of" ourselves when we should be exalting God the Father whose keenest desire is to pour out His love on us?!?


Life involves giving and receiving. In vv8-11 Jesus has addressed the "invitee", the "receiving" end - "when someone invites you to a wedding feast..." In vv12-14 Jesus turns and speaks to His host, the "inviter" or the giving end of things (as we are able to give to others, in whatever form).

One challenge in preparing for Allison and Philipp's wedding involved deciding who to invite for the "preception" after the rehearsal and who to invite for the ceremony and "reception" the next day. Considering Allison's extensive list of friends she's made over the years, not to mention my own extensive family tree, this included whittling down the list in an attempt to keep it affordable; how close are the bonds in these circles? You don't want to leave out somebody that SHOULD be invited, or risk offending people unduly.

Christ in vv12ff challenges our tendency to share our food and festivities only with those who are most "like us" or (in the case of a wedding) well-off enough to bring a sizeable wedding present! 14:12 "Then Jesus said to his host, 'When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.'" That's the common approach...We LIKE our circles - we're comfortable with folks that are 'like us', it's easy to be sociable with them, it's mutually beneficial as we go back and forth. That keeps the relationship from feeling one-sided.

What's Jesus advise? Vv13f "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Jesus is contending there's definite BLESSING in inviting those who cannot repay the favour: (a) there's an inherent good feeling as we enjoy their enjoying the opportunity; and (b) there's an imminent (not yet but eventual) reward - "you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." By whom? The language is very indirect, cloaking here; NLT is more blatant, "God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you."

Well, what about it - are we up to "stretching our circles", to invite somebody over we've never had in our house before? Who in your neighbourhood would be least likely to get invited over for supper? Besides the physically hurting (crippled, lame, blind), are there some emotionally wounded folks that others hesitate to invite over? Maybe God would use your friendship as an integral part of their healing.

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Rom 3:23f) Not a one of us would have merited a spot on God's invitation list. He is Holy, Perfect, Absolutely Just and Righteous; no sin belongs in His presence. But He stretched HIS "circle" to invite you to His heavenly banquet, when you trust Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Can you let the Father's vast love through you stretch your connections to include some others?

Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan and grandson of King Saul, had been dropped as a young child and was lame in both feet, crippled for life. Yet King David searched him out and welcomed Mephibosheth to eat the king's table all the rest of his life - not because Mephibosheth had done anything to deserve it, but as David put it - "I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan.I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table." (2Sam 9:7)

Jesus promises we will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. God is watching to reward kindness people show to others, especially to those who can't repay. One last illustration from our own "wedding feast". At the reception, as I said, the emcees held this contest to determine the order in which tables got to go through the buffet line. The head table got to go first, so I was sitting there eating and watching the proceedings. After a while I noticed that my immediate family's table (including my 93-year-old father and my brother and his wife who'd travelled up from Iowa) were still sitting waiting and hungry - they hadn't managed to win any of the 'contests' yet. So I rigged the system; I "played God", if you will. I went over to the emcees and asked if the next challenge could be "the table that has someone over 90 years of age". Guess who got to go next?!

Our Heavenly Father is watching the proceedings here on earth. Not a single act of humble kindness done by one of His children in Jesus' name will go unnoticed or unrewarded. God is well capable of blessing you when you "stretch your circle" to bless the poor, the crippled, the blind. Jesus solemnly promised, "I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward." (Mr 9:41) Giving a cup of water? How hard is that?! Yet in such humble acts, you exalt Him, you make Him look good! Let's pray.