Friday Focus: The Place of Honor
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
"When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at 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 the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
He said also to the one who had invited him, "When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Luke 14:1, 7-14
Pride is Satan’s curve ball. More souls have gone down swinging at that sucker pitch than any other in his repertoire. Satan can throw it so well because it’s his oldest weapon. He’s been practicing it since the Garden of Eden. It is the original sin that brought down Adam and Eve. It is the gateway sin that opens the door for a host of evil, from petty snobbery to genocide. It is the singular sin that Jesus identifies for condemnation over and over.
Through chapter after chapter of all four gospels, Jesus preaches a positive message of love. In the Sermon on the Mount, he tells us that the humble will inherit the earth. In this gospel he tells us that the humble will be made great. His way is to lead us to virtue rather than rail against vice. Every aspect of his life is a living sermon of humble service in submission to the will of the Father. His way is to fill our souls with love, so we leave no room for sin.
In this gospel, rushing for the best seats at table is obviously more boorish behavior than iniquity. But it reflects a proud, corrosive attitude. Give pride enough time and enough encouragement and it will morph into a pattern of selfish behaviors… spiraling ultimately to total self-absorption. Consumed by pride, in time every form of sin becomes a permissible, personal privilege. Through proud eyes, there are no lies; if I am the arbiter of truth. There is no greed; if I believe that I deserve something more than you do. There is no lust; if other people exist for my pleasure. In the terminal stages of pride, the only God I ever need smirks right back at me from my mirror.
But pride does not need to reach a terminal stage to wreak havoc in our lives. It can fester at a low level, eroding our faith and squandering grace. Pride permits us to pick through Christ’s message; rejecting the inconvenient; embracing only the familiar and the comfortable. Chastity and charity don’t always fit into our plans. Christmas carols and Easter bunnies are fun, but who needs all that gloomy crucifixion stuff. Love of neighbor is a charming concept, but it certainly was never meant to apply to those shabby people on the other side of town. And of course we believe in God. But he’s got his priorities and we have ours. One of these days we definitely intend to get around to him… when we find the time.
Pride like this cannot be ripped from our hearts. It always returns to fill the void. Pride must be crowded out by love. A heart full of love is a humble heart. It deflates pride and leaves no room for selfishness. A heart full of love has a purpose; and it is not to grab the best seat in the house. A heart full of love mirrors the heart of Christ: It serves the Father. It witnesses the love of the Son. It follows the direction of the Holy Spirit. It is purged of pride and focused on the only place of honor that really counts… our place before the throne of God.