Listen to the audio of today’s Reflection:

Luke 14:7-11

     7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, 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 person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 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 honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Here’s a passage that has at least as much application to life in the digital age as it did to life in first-century Palestine. Not only that, but I think you could also say it has just as much value for non-believers as it does for followers of Jesus – at least when it comes to life in this world. I think the difference is that to non-believers, what Jesus says here comes under the heading of ‘good advice,’ whereas to those of us who claim to follow him, it represents a commandment with impact on our eternal life.

In this passage Jesus gives us a commandment (or, if you prefer, advice) on how to manage your relationships with other people. He specifically mentions “a wedding feast,” but it seems to me just as applicable to a wide variety of social settings. And his teaching speaks to a basic reality of human relations: Those who engage in vigorous self-promotion run the risk of getting slapped down, either out of malice or just because someone more exalted shows up. But those who humble themselves might be lifted up for their good qualities. (That assumes, of course, that they have some good qualities.)

It might be the case that people tend to recognize self-promotion when they see it, and consciously or unconsciously push back against it. In today’s celebrity-driven culture, where some people seem to be famous mostly for being famous, we get lots of chances to see self-promotion in action.

But of course, in spite of its universal value, Jesus wasn’t in the business of just dispensing good advice for its own sake; everything he said has some direct relevance to our life of faith. That’s true of this passage, like every other. This little story about what to do when you’re invited to a social occasion seems intended as a metaphor for how followers of Jesus should conduct ourselves within the community of faith. And the real point he seems to be getting at here is that our place in the kingdom of God isn’t improved by self-promotion.

There’s a famous passage from the sixth chapter of the book of the prophet Micah – it’s the basis for the name of our new coalition to provide affordable housing in Medina – that says that what God requires of us is that we “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” God came into the world in the form of Jesus to demonstrate a profound humility in his dealings with others, even washing the feet of those who would betray and deny him. It’s hard to get any less self-promotional than that. And then Jesus commanded those of us who follow him to imitate him in cultivating that same spirit of humility in our own lives.

The Bible scholars say that one of the most common of all of Jesus’ teachings was, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” That sentence shows up frequently in the gospels and in early Christian writings. And Jesus clearly demonstrated his commitment to that philosophy in his own life. It’s one of the most startling ironies about Jesus that the one who is called “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” initiated the greatest movement in human history by getting down on the floor and washing the feet of others.

In our social media age, self-promotion is practically considered a virtue. The “influencers” who command much of our attention in our culture would never dream of going to a banquet and taking a seat by the doors to the kitchen. And they would be deeply offended if anyone suggested they should. In fact, lots of them would stomp out in a huff and fire off a flurry of furious tweets complaining that they had been “disrespected.”

It might be true that this is meant to be the one area in which we followers of Jesus are meant to differ most strikingly from the rest of the world. In fact, the greatest moments of the church in the world have come when followers of Jesus humbled themselves in service to others. It happened first when they stayed in the cities and nursed the poor during the great plagues. Then throughout Christian history, they have served among the poor like Mother Theresa did, provided dignified homes for the developmentally disabled as Jean Vanier did, and gone to prison with the garbage workers as Martin Luther King did. They all accepted the “lowest place” among the poor and the marginalized, and today they are exalted as models of the life of discipleship we are all called to emulate.

Let’s pray. Lord, let your Holy Spirit be at work in our hearts, shaping us away from our sinful human urge to glorify ourselves, and transforming us instead into humble servants of the one who came as a servant to all. In his name we pray. Amen.

Have a great weekend, and worship God joyfully on Sunday!


(The listed readings for today are Psalms 51 and 148; Zephaniah 3:8-13; Revelation 17:1-18; and Luke 13:31-35. Our readings come from the NIV Bible, as posted in, the website of the International Bible Society.)