Humility or Humiliation? (Luke 14:1-11)

This morning we shall learn about a very important topic from a very important person.  We shall sit at the feet of Jesus and learn about humility.  Our passage is found in Luke 14:1-11.  We will briefly discuss the hypocrisy of the religious leaders in verses 1-6 before spending most of our time in verses 7-11.

Humiliation vs. Humility

In verses 7-11, Jesus tells a parable (practical illustration that communicates great spiritual truth) about a wedding feast after He “noticed how they chose the places of honor” (7).  He did so in order to show that pride brings humiliation and humility brings honor.

Humiliation

Jesus mentions a man who was invited to a wedding and sat in “a place of honor” (8).  He was not told to sit there but deemed himself worthy of sitting there.  By selecting a place of honor at the wedding feast, the man conveyed to everyone else at the party that he was one of the most important persons there.

This man, who exalted himself, was humiliated when the host came and said, “Give your place to this person” (9).  The man with pride was humbled and “with shame” (9) went to sit in the lowest place at the wedding table.  Jesus says pride brings humiliation.  Consider what the book of Proverbs says about this: “when pride comes, then comes disgrace” (11:2), “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18), “One’s pride will bring him low” (29:23).

Here is the important truth: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled” (11).  This is not what I think or you think, this is a promise from God Himself.  God opposes the proud (Prov 3:34, James 5:6, 1 Peter 5:5), therefore if you exalt yourself He will humble you.

Humility

Once again, consider the parable.  Jesus said, “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.”  Jesus said we must humble (not exalt) ourselves before others.  When the person sits in the lowest place, he conveys to everyone else that he does not consider himself any better than anyone else.  In this parable the host comes and moves him to a higher seat and honors him before others.

Jesus says that humility brings honor.  Consider what the book of Proverbs says about this: “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (11:2). “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor “(29:23).

How do we cultivate humility in our lives? Consider three aspects of Biblical humility: 1) think of yourself less often, 2) think of others more often, and 3) think of God most often.

Think of yourself less often.  C.S. Lewis once said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  One way to foster humility in your life is to stop thinking of yourself so much.  Sadly, our television shows, movies, and magazines flatter us by telling us that we are wonderful and we tend to believe it.  Ann Landers once commented on this saying: “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” (If you want a true measure of your worth, get a cat!)

God does not call us into His kingdom in order to set us up as kings, but as servants. Having established that we are not as great as we may think, let us not move into another dangerous area and that is thinking badly of ourselves.  Jesus did not walk around sounding like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and neither should His followers. We are redeemed, we are set apart, and we are children of God.  The gospel should not make us prideful but humble.

Think of others more often.  The amazing thing is that once you stop thinking of yourself all the time your mind will begin to think more about others.  It is the humble person who does not focus on what he does not have, but considers what others do not have.  Pride says, “I want!” and humility says, “You need!”  True humility thinks about others more often than oneself.

Think of God most often.  You may be thinking that this sermon sounds nice but it will not work in the real world.  Or you may be thinking that you tried this before and it didn’t work.  You just could not stop focusing on yourself.  The key which you may not have used to unlocking humility in your life is to submit your life to God.  True humility comes from confessing your sin and rebellion to God and asking Him to save you.  True humility begins by going to the model of humility: Jesus Christ.  Jesus will transform you from a self-absorbed person into a person who thinks of God most often.

Application: One or the Other

God has made it clear in the Bible that if you choose to exalt yourself you will be humbled.  Will I be the person who strives daily to advance my kingdom with my wants, needs, and feelings or will I be the person who will “deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow” (Luke 9:23)?

If we exalt ourselves we will be humbled, but the blessing of the gospel is that if we humble ourselves we will be exalted.  It is only the heart that is captured and captivated by Jesus Christ that can humble itself before God and others. So the question is: do you want humility or humiliation?  The choice is yours.