“Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 ESV).
Dear Fellow Servants:
We live in an age which emphasizes self-esteem and self-worth as desirable characteristics.People take classes in self-assertion. This attitude of pride is nothing new. In Jesus’ day the Pharisees or religious leaders were proud of their position and proud of their works. It was the Pharisee who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.” Most religions emphasize doing things that make you feel you are better than others. The result is that people in organized religions often despise others in order to make themselves feel better. This attitude of the Pharisee was summed up in Luke 14, “Now it happened, as He went into the house of one of the rulers of the Pharisees to eat bread on the Sabbath, that they watched Him closely” (Luke 14:1). The religious leaders watched Jesus closely not trying to learn from Him but trying to entrap Jesus in His words and discredit Him.
Jesus was the eternal Word, the eternal Creator God. And yet Jesus, the eternal God, humbled Himself and took upon Himself the form of a servant. Jesus was born in lowliness and poverty. During His earthly life, there was nothing impressive or important about Him. And He finally became obedient unto death even death on the cross. Jesus died as the worst of criminals despised by men and rejected by God. When Jesus noticed how these religious leaders jockeyed to get the best places of honor, He told them this parable.
When you go to a wedding, don’t immediately go up to the head table because the host may come to you and say, “Give this person your seat.” Then in front of everyone, you will have to slink to the back of the room. How much better wouldn’t it be if instead you took the lowest place and the host then comes to you and says, “Move up to a better place.”
Jesus is not advocating a cynical attitude which seeks to manipulate people in order to make you look better. Jesus is rather encouraging a true attitude of Christ-like humility that places others before ourselves. The principle is clearly stated by Jesus, (Luke 14:11) “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
1. Pastors are to be humble toward God. The Christian is humble because of his many sins against the holy God. The Bible includes all under God’s judgment because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is
nothing that we could ever do that could earn God’s acceptance and favor. We have nothing to boast of before God. Even as Christians we have to confess “the good that I want to do, I don’t do and the bad things I don’t want to do I find myself doing.”
God saved us by His free gift of grace. God loves us in spite of what we are and what we have done. There is no room for human pride in light of God’s grace. It is a miracle of God’s undeserved love that He forgives us our many sins.
Natural man rejects grace and faith because man wants to take some credit for doing something to deserve his salvation. The Pharisees felt that God accepted them because they observed the Old Testament law with its rules and regulations. They religiously observed their man-made interpretations of the Sabbath law and the other human traditions of religion. Their religion fed on the stroking of man’s pride. Man-made religions encourage people to feel good about themselves and what they have done.
Churches can encourage people to give by making a big deal over big contributions. Churches grow by encouraging people to make a show of their works so that others will praise them. We also want to feel good about who we are and what we have done. What a come down when God reveals that we have nothing feel proud of.
2. Pastors are to be humble in their dealings with others. As pastors it is easy to be seduced into feeling that we are someone special. Remember that a religion of pride and works and regulations has the result of despising others. It is easy to preach about the obvious sins of others such as murderers and child abusers in such a way that we conclude, “God, I thank you that I am not like other sinners.” Church organizations have the tendency as Jamessays to ignore the poor and the nobodies and fawn over the rich and important. Sometimes people get their noses bent out of shape when people don’t notice what they have done.
Jesus goes on to encourage the Pharisees not to invite those who are important and those who can do them some good when they have a banquet. Sometimes we treat with respect people who can in some way benefit us. Instead like Jesus, Himself, we should rather reach out to the unlovable, the poor, the disenfranchised of the world. Humility serves those who can do nothing to repay us. In the final resurrection and judgment, God will exalt those who humble
Jesus calls us to lives of service just as He served us. Jesus calls us to reach out to the nobodies and real sinners of this world just as He reached out for real sinners like us. Knowledge of our many sins and the unlimited grace and love of God keeps us humble and dependent upon the grace of God.
Let each of us look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others.