Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
Home
4501 Waller Rd E
Tacoma, Washington
INI
Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
September 20, 2015
Ascension Lutheran Church, Tacoma WA
Paul Naumann, Pastor

IT'S HARD TO BE HUMBLE
Luke 14:7-11

To Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Today's text is found in the 14th chapter of Luke, beginning with the seventh verse, as follows:

So Jesus told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: 8 "When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; 9 "and he who invited you and him come and say to you, 'Give place to this man,' and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 "But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." So far the Holy Word.

In Christ Jesus, who humbled Himself and is exalted, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Winston Churchill was once asked, "Doesn't it thrill you to know that every time you make a speech, the halls of parliament are packed to overflowing?" "It's quite flattering," replied Churchill. "But whenever I feel that way, I always remember that if instead of making a political speech I was being hanged, the crowd would be twice as big." Churchill may have been a political giant -- but he also had a sense of humility.

True humility is a rare quality. The poet T. S. Eliot once said, "Humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself." That's a desire that must die in us Christians, however. If we want to be fruitful servants of our Lord, we must kill it, as hard as that might be to do. Jesus Christ is the Master of heaven and earth, but for our sakes He was also a Master of humility. If we want learn the lesson of true humility we must look to Him for guidance, and our text for today is a good place to start. Our theme is --

IT'S HARD TO BE HUMBLE
I. Jesus was humble for our sake;
II. Let us be humble for His sake.

In order to understand the words of Jesus in this text, we have to put ourselves into the room where Jesus was sitting when he said them. He had been invited to a dinner one evening that was being given by one of the Pharisees. Now, when we're invited to someone's house for dinner, it usually doesn't really matter much where we sit down. The head of the house sometimes sits on the end, and the hostess usually wants to sit where she can be nearest the kitchen, but besides that people generally sit where they like. Not so in ancient Israel. At a dinner party in Jesus' time, you could tell who were most important guests by how close they sat to the host. The highest members of society sat near the head of the table. Not-so-important people sat farther down. Those who sat at the foot of the table were the humblest people; they were supposed to feel lucky they were invited at all.

But it's hard to be humble! On this particular evening Jesus looked around Him as the guests were arriving for dinner. He noticed that as soon as they got there, they'd scurry to get a place near the head of the table - a place of "honor." So he told the people there a parable. The AAT translation renders this passage well. Jesus said, "When anyone invites you to a feast, don't take the place of honor. He may have invited somebody more important than you. And he who invited you and him will come and tell you, 'Give this man your place,' and then you'll feel ashamed when you have to take the lowest place. No, when you're invited, go and take the lowest place, so that when your host comes he'll tell you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then all your fellow guests will see how you're honored. If you honor yourself, you'll be humbled, but if you humble yourself, you'll be honored."

Now you might think, "That sounds like good, practical advice." After all, modesty is a good thing, and nobody likes to be shamed in public. But what's this passage all about? Is it just a tip on good table manners? No, it's much more than that. Luke tells us that the words of Jesus are a parable. And you know what a parable is - it's an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. So what's the heavenly meaning that the Master is trying to get across to us here? It's a lesson about true humility. It's the hard lesson that we should be humble, not proud, before God and our fellow men!

But it's hard to be humble. As we all know, actions speak louder than words. Nobody likes a person who says, "Do as I say, not as I do." But Jesus wasn't that kind of teacher. Jesus Himself was the Master of humility. His whole life was a lesson in humility. No one knew better than our Savior what it meant to "humble himself." If you think it's hard to be humble, imagine how the Son of God felt! Paul said, "Christ Jesus...being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." -- Php 2:5. Throughout the ages it's been said of extremely proud men, like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar, "He considered himself a god." But Jesus really was God! It wasn't "robbery" - He wasn't taking anything that didn't belong to Him - when He said that He was equal with God, part of God, the almighty Creator of the universe! If anyone deserved to be proud, "to take the highest seat" in life, certainly it was Jesus. But when our Savior came to earth to begin His work He took not the highest seat, but the lowest! Paul goes on, "But He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." -- Php 2:6-9.

Was being humble easy for our Savior? I think it may have the very hardest part of the sufferings He endured! Imagine - for Almighty Creator to stand there and take it while his creatures laughed at Him, insulted Him, schemed against Him, and finally plotted His murder! And yet He did stand for it. He humbly endured every shameful humiliation His enemies could heap upon Him. Finally, he went through the ultimate humiliation - death by crucifixion. Not every condemned criminal in those days was crucified, you know -- that form of execution was reserved for the lowest criminals; filthy traitors and mass-murderers. He humbled Himself even to this terrible end. And for what? For the simple joy of delivering you and me, His natural enemies, from our sins! Paul says, "Look...unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame." -- Heb 12:2. He humbly carried out his love for us to the final drop of blood, the last rending cry of agony, so that He might carry us - you and me! - from the pit of hell to the very gates of heaven.

Yes, Jesus was humble for our sake -- let us be humble for His sake. Today our Savior is urging us to choose for ourselves the lowest seat, to live lives of humility before God and our fellow men.

You'd think the first part, anyway, would be easy. To feel humble toward God, all we have to do is be realistic! After all, if you read the Bible it's pretty hard to miss what the Law says about our natural relation to God. In the Psalms, for instance, we read, God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. 3 Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one. -- Ps. 53:2-3.But it's hard to be humble! Even we Christians tend to seek out a high place for ourselves in God's sight. Dr. Harry Ironside was a famous evangelist in Chicago in the early part of the last century. But he had one famous failing - he was proud. A friend recommended a remedy, that he march through the streets of Chicago wearing a sandwich board, shouting the scripture verses on the board for all to hear. Dr. Ironside agreed to this and carried out the assignment with gusto. But when he returned to his study and removed the board, he was overheard to say, "I'll bet there's not another man in town who would do that!"

Pride is a pitfall for Christians. We tend to be like the proud Pharisee standing in the front of the temple, saying, "Lord, I thank you that I am not as other men are!" But you remember, Jesus praised the other fellow, the despised tax collector who was standing in a dark corner in the back of the temple. This man didn't even dare to lift up his eyes to heaven, but struck himself on the chest in repentance and said, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 1Jesus said, I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. -- Lk. 18:13-14.

Flannery O'Connor once said, "To know one's self is, above all, to know what one lacks. The first product of self knowledge is humility." It wasn't hard for that tax collector to be humble, because he knew what he lacked - righteousness. He knew his sin, and he knew God knew it. The only option he had was to beg for God's mercy, so he did. May God give us the same self-knowledge and the same repentant humility that this man had. Face your sins and confess them! You can be sure that the Lord will not be stingy about forgiving those sins -- yes, every one, for sake of the precious blood Jesus shed for you. When you confess your sins, you will not meet sharp punishment. You will not meet an angry scowl and the thundering condemnation of God. Instead you will hear the joyful, welcoming voice of your heavenly Father, just as the returning prodigal son heard the voice of his father say, "Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." -- Lk. 15:22-24. Now no child could have transgressed against his father worse than that son did. But the good news of the Gospel is that, even where sin abounds, grace in Christ Jesus abounds much more! Dear Christian, you have heard the Gospel preached to you today. You have heard me, speaking on behalf of Christ, forgive all your sins and absolve you of all guilt. If you could hear the voice of Jesus speaking from heaven as you left church this morning, you'd hear Him say, "This person went down to his house JUSTIFIED!"

Maybe the hardest part of the humility that God expects from us is being humble toward each other. Toward God - maybe, but toward the fellow next door? Now that's hard! "I may not be the best," we say to ourselves in mock humility, "but compared to that person I'm much more (fill in the blank) - upstanding, godly, honest, virtuous, etc." Even among our fellow Christians, we're always comparing ourselves with others; consciously or unconsciously choosing the highest place for ourselves. In the words of the apostle, "Brethren, these things ought not so to be!" Peter urges all of us, young and old, to ponder our humble Savior, and imitate Him by submitting to one another, and serving each other: Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. -- 1 Pet. 5:5-6. Jesus submitted Himself to no end of suffering for us. Let us, in faith, follow His instruction and submit ourselves to our Christian brothers and sisters in love. With the help of God's Holy Spirit, we can do this!

In the early 1900s, a native Sikh of India named Sadhu Sundar Singh became one of that country's most famous Christian missionaries. So famous that, when he embarked on a trip around the world he was greeted at every stop by large crowds and great fanfare. He was later asked whether all the fame and praise didn't work against his Christian faith. He had a good answer for that. He compared it to Palm Sunday. He said, "When the donkey went into Jerusalem, they spread garments and palm branches on the ground before him. But the donkey was not proud. He knew it was not done to honor him, but to honor Jesus, who was sitting on his back. I know that this praise is not for me, but for my Lord Jesus, who does all the work and deserves all the honor." Let that be the attitude of every disciple of Jesus! It's hard to be humble, but not impossible. Let us learn humility from the Master of humility. Jesus was humble for our sake -- let us be humble for His! AMEN.