Embarrassment often happens when our pride gets in the way.
Generally, in our country and in our culture, when we are invited to any kind of a bash, we are only able to sit in assigned seats.
Any place of honor has already been designated and reserved for those so honored.
Therefore, it may be difficult for us to understand exactly how to apply the lesson Jesus gave in the parable of the wedding feast and the seating arrangements.
Now he told a parable to those who were invited,
when he noticed how they chose the places of honor,
saying to them,
“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,
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.
If you were invited to a presidential dinner with many guests and you arrived early, and was not escorted to an assigned seat, but chose the seat next to the President, you would eventually be told to move.
If this happened after the guests had arrived, you would be embarrassed in front of them all.
This is the scenario Jesus was painting for His listeners.
He told them to not allow themselves to be embarrassed in front of everyone by taking the best place.
Rather, they were to take the lowest place, and then they would be honored by being moved up the ranks.
Consider the benefits of a potluck meal somewhere.
When we were younger and saw all that luscious food spread out on the tables, we would try to be first so that no one would get that delicious-looking piece of meat.
As we learn about these things, though, we eventually choose to be last, because then there is no limit on how much to put on my plate.
I don’t have to consider those coming after me.
Jesus is speaking to something much deeper here than simply choosing a place of honor.
What is it that causes us to want to be noticed?
While pride itself is not wrong, there is an aspect of pride that is detrimental.
We have all been taught and we all know that this kind of pride can get us into a lot of trouble.
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
In the parable, Jesus was pointing out there is always someone better than you.
When I was about 23 years old, I thought I had become pretty good at tennis.
My friend, Tommy Davis, had been playing at the country club since he was just a youngster.
We went out for a game one day, and his very first serve knocked the racquet out of my hand.
The male professional players of today serve the ball at upwards of 120mph. If I was on the court with them, I would never see it go by me.
There is always someone who is better than you at whatever you do, and your pride will get in the way if that person shows up unexpectedly in your life.
That pride will become your downfall.
The last part of that verse is also not recognized as a reality to be avoided.
In fact, the haughty spirit is celebrated and cultivated in our day.
For awhile, our self-improvement gurus were telling us to consider ourselves “10-feet tall and bulletproof.”
There is a place of balance in all this which is often missed.
Many people go to the other extreme, though, and become fretful over becoming too proud.
I have often heard someone receive a well-deserved compliment, when someone nearby will say, “Careful. Don’t give her the big head.”
This kind of thinking has gone a long ways in stopping people from giving or receiving encouragement.
The teaching on pride and humility we have received from the generations before us have actually crippled us more than helped us to live with an appropriate attitude.
In trying to make sure that people did not become proud, but remained humble, we have actually destroyed them and their sense of self-worth.
As a result, we came to the place where we thought it was necessary to help everyone develop a good sense of self-esteem.
We are now supposed to tell everyone they are good, they are the best, they are not a loser, etc.
In order to avoid the fallout of disappointment we now give out participation trophies, so that no child goes home crying.
As far as developing self-esteem goes, we can see how miserably this exercise has failed.
A sense of entitlement has replaced self-esteem, and entitlement breeds discontent and anger when supposed needs are not met.
I lived on a block in Harrisburg, PA where many of my neighbors received welfare checks in the mail.
If the check did not come on the day they were expecting it, I heard some of them cursing at the mailman for not bringing their check.
Due to this kind of behavior becoming the norm, many have claimed we should do away with welfare of any kind; but I disagree.
Simply because something is abused is no reason to get rid of it.
Think guns, cars, alcohol, sex, political power, whatever. Abuse is not a reason to get rid of any of these.
Yes. It seems that social welfare creates many undesirable situations; but is that the system, or the heart of man causing the problem?
The answer is obvious when put in that light.
Social welfare helps many who actually need the help.
So, let us not be so proud of our ability and willingness to work that we destroy what may be of help for others not so blessed.
James talks about pride in our ability to get things done.
Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town
and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”
Instead you ought to say,
“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”
As it is, you boast in your arrogance.
All such boasting is evil.
That kind of boasting is the pride that can go before a fall.
Many who read this are probably doing okay financially speaking.
We have learned to live within our means with a margin of safety for any possible emergency need.
It is easy in that place to begin to take things for granted that everything will continue as is.
That is what Peter warned us about in his letter.
They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?
For ever since the fathers fell asleep,
all things are continuing as they were
from the beginning of creation.”
Peter then goes on to remind us that things are being held together by the word of the Lord, but the word of the Lord includes a time when all these things will disappear.
Many of our economic forecasters are warning that our economy cannot survive much longer as we continue to print money to prop up our declining Gross Domestic Product.
Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of Germany, established the first modern welfare state in the late 19th century.
History shows that at the beginning, it was a good thing, but slowly became a bad thing for the country.
A wheelbarrow of money would buy a loaf of bread.
What are we doing that is any different?
The BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are working together to destabilize the American dollar among the world’s currencies.
Given our sense of pride as the power of the world, coupled with our population’s sense of entitlement, along with the ever-increasing desire to accommodate every possible squeaky wheel demanding attention, we are also on the downhill slide toward destruction.
We can see the change on the horizon.
Will we try to maintain our pride of position?
Or, will we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God?
I suggest that we not wait around for our country to get it together, but that each one of us individually recognize the need that is before us to lay down our pride and begin to beg God for mercy.
Let us recognize the reality of the proverb
Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Let us begin to search our own hearts to see if there be any form of pride lurking within the dark corners of our heart.
We can pray the prayer of David.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
I know some of what I have said comes close to a doomsday message, which generally does not provide much encouragement.
However, I do believe there comes a time when we may need a wake-up call to bring us out of our lethargy of complacency and cause us once again to realize whose we are and to whom we belong.
I believe that we will not go to destruction along with so many others if we indeed heed the wake-up call.
Daniel tells us in chapter 11 of his prophecy
the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.
And the wise among the people shall make many understand,
Daniel was prophesying about a time of severe testing on the world, but he brings out this promise for those who will give heed to reality.
While things may look dark and grim, there is nothing to fear for those who will keep their faith and trust in the Lord strong.
May you, brothers and sisters, keep your faith and trust strong so that pride does not bring you down with the others.