Jesus is invited to Sabbath dinner at the home of a Pharisee; there are lots of important people there and they are all watching Jesus to see what he will do. The Pharisees were gathering information that would be used later in Jesus’ trial in Jerusalem.
At these dinners, the tables were usually arranged in levels so that the most important people were at the elevated tables where they could see and be seen. When Jesus noticed that the invited guests were jockeying for the ‘best’ seats, he used a parable to speak of the quality of humility. Those people trying to get the best seats felt they deserved it because of their position or wanted to be seen as important even if they were not. ’Jesus’ warning to them was to consider the embarrassment if the host had intended those seats for others and asked them to move.
Can you imagine how you would feel if you were seated where everyone could see you and then had to move to a lesser table? Your ego would be deflated and you would certainly lose face in the eyes of the other guests.
But those who chose to sit in a lesser seat would not be moved, or may even be invited to sit at the higher table.
This parable speaks to the humility of God’s children. In ancient times, those seated at the lower tables were considered servants to the upper tables. So, those who chose to sit there recognized that although they may have gifts and talents that warranted their sitting in a special place, they were humble enough to realize that these gifts and talents brought them no special treatment. They knew that service, especially service to God, was far more
important than prestige.
And Jesus gives a warning to the host that he should not invite only his friends or people who would be obligated to return the favor, but ask those who did not have the means to invite him back in return. By including those who were poor, crippled, lame and blind, the host would be fulfilling Jesus’ reminder that
- what you do for the least of these, you do to me. (Matthew 25:40)
From this parable, we are reminded that we should give back to God with those talents He has given us and we should care for those less fortunate than ourselves. This is the way to Heaven.
delivered at Lindley Assisted Living Center, Athens, OH 29 August 2007