Summary: The analysis of humility in Luke 14:7-11 teaches us the necessity of humility.
With just a few months left to live, Jesus was on a journey from Galilee to Jerusalem where he would be crucified. Along the way, the religious leaders engaged him in verbal conflict. The religious leaders taught that to be a citizen of the kingdom of God one had to follow the rules of God, as interpreted by them. Jesus taught that one had to enter into a relationship with God through faith in his Son and repentance of sin. One of the necessary attributes in this relationship was humility.
Having just healed a man of dropsy on the Sabbath while having a meal at the home of a ruler of the Pharisees, Jesus then told them a parable to illustrate the necessity of humility.
Let’s read the parable of the wedding feast in Luke 14:7-11:
7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “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, 9 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. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)
Here is some good news: if you are like most people, you are way above average – at almost everything. Psychologists call this the state of “illusory superiority.” It is also called “The Lake Wobegone Effect,” from Garrison Keillor’s fictional Minnesota town where “all the children are above average.” It simply means that we tend to inflate our positive qualities and abilities, especially in comparison to other people.
Numerous research studies have revealed this tendency to overestimate ourselves. For instance, when researchers asked a million high school students how well they got along with their peers, none of the students rated themselves below average. As a matter of fact, 60 percent of students believed they were in the top 10 percent, and 25 percent rated themselves in the top one percent.
You would think college professors might have more self-insight, but they were just as biased about their abilities. Two percent rated themselves below average, 10 percent were average, and 63 percent were above average, while 25 percent rated themselves as truly exceptional.
Of course this is statistically impossible. One researcher summarized the data this way: “It’s the great contradiction: the average person believes he is a better person than the average person.” Christian psychologist Mark McMinn contends that the “Lake Wobegone Effect” reveals our pride. He writes, “One of the clearest conclusions of social science research is that we are proud. We think better of ourselves than we really are, we see our faults in faint black and white rather than in vivid color, and we assume the worst in others while assuming the best in ourselves.”
Most people in Jesus’ day assumed the best in themselves. They believed that they were pretty good people and that they were doing a good job following the rules that would make them citizens of the kingdom of God. That is why the religious leaders were so upset that Jesus opposed their interpretation of the rules. Jesus taught that pride – thinking of ourselves better than we really are, seeing our faults in faint black and white rather than in vivid color, and assuming the worst in others while assuming the best in ourselves – was a real stumbling block to entering the kingdom of God. Instead, Jesus insisted upon the necessity of humility to enter the kingdom of God. This is what he taught in the parable of the wedding feast.
The analysis of humility as set forth in Luke 14:7-11 teaches us the necessity of humility.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Prelude to the Parable (14:7)
2. The Protocol in the Parable (14:8-10)
3. The Point of the Parable (14:11)
I. The Prelude to the Parable (14:7)
First, look at the prelude to the parable.
One Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees. While there he healed a man of dropsy (Luke 14:1-6). By healing this man Jesus demonstrated compassion and asserted the lawfulness of doing works of mercy on the Sabbath.
After rebuking the people in attendance at the meal for their lack of compassion and mercy, Jesus told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor (14:7) at the dinner table. Commentator Darrell Bock says, “Seating custom varied from culture to culture and even within cultures. For example, later Judaism spoke of a U-shaped table with a three-person couch located on each prong of the table. The host sat at the bottom of the U, in the middle between the two wings of the U; the most honored seat would be to the left and the next honored seat would be to the right.” The seats of honor would diminish moving away from the host. So, the lowest place would be at the end of the table furthest away from the host, whereas the highest honor would be next to and nearest the host.