Sunday, July 1, 2012

The parable of the humiliated guest

7 ¶And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them,
8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.
10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Luke 14:7-11)

 This parable of Jesus’s has no explanation attached, which probably means that it was so plain and clear to those it was given to that it seemed to need no explanation.  It says humble yourself so that you don’t get humiliated when someone is preferred and honored above you.  If it weren’t that the text tells us that Jesus was speaking a parable, we probably wouldn’t know it as a parable.  We’d think it was just a commandment.

But I found there are still some things to learn from this parable if we look at it from an eternal perspective.  The invitation to the wedding is the invitation to eternal life and membership in God’s kingdom.  It seems God’s kingdom has higher and lower rooms.  The host is Christ Himself.  It seems that there may be some jockeying for the “good spots” before the host comes and the celebration starts.

When Christ speaks of the host moving guests higher or lower between the rooms, He speaks of the final judgment when every man’s works will be known and rewarded according to whether they are good or evil.  These guests at the wedding feast are good; they are the ones who listened to the invitation.  (Later in the same chapter Christ will give the parable about those who refuse the invitation to the wedding feast.)  But the guests at this wedding feast are sorted according to the honor they are worthy of (which we can surmise comes from the faithfulness they demonstrated) and each receives honor accordingly. 

So we see plainly how presumptuous it would be to expect the highest honors at the very beginning for just having responded to the invitation.  We really don’t know how much honor we are worthy of or how to rate our claims in comparison to each other.  The host hasn’t arrived yet, and the host is the one best able to tell the degree to which each person is worthy of honor.   We just know we will receive honor, so it is best to rate your claims low at the beginning.

From this perspective, we learn that it is best for us not to exalt ourselves for our faithfulness, since there may always be someone else who rates more faithful than us.  I personally have learned not to underestimate the faithfulness of my fellow Saints.  When I begin to overestimate my faithfulness, it doesn’t take long before I learn the story of someone else who has faithfully made it through tribulations I never dreamed existed.  Then I feel like saying, “Well, you’re in a higher room than me..” and I want to hide my face in shame.

I have faith that if we avoid exalting ourselves, at some point when the Lord comes, He will take us higher. Will we be in the highest room with the greatest honors?  That’s an interesting question, and it is particularly pertinent to us as Latter-day Saints, especially since we have a revelation to Joseph Smith in D&C 131 that we must enter into the covenant of eternal marriage to obtain the highest degree of the celestial kingdom.  Those of us who have married in the temple are liable to be complacent about our place in the celestial kingdom, but I leave it to you to decide whether humility is necessary for a good marriage relationship or not.

Humility is really hard to define, so I thought I’d include some quotations from BrainyQuote on humility that I find instructive.

True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.  (Ralph W. Sockman)
Humility is nothing else but a right judgment of ourselves.  (William Law)
Judge yourself; if you do that you will not be judged by God, as St. Paul says. But it must be a real sense of your own sinfulness, not an artificial humility.  (Johannes Tauler)
Assuredly, Loving Souls, you should go to God with all humility and respect, humbling yourselves in His presence, especially when you remember your past ingratitude and sins.  (Alphonsus Liguori)
In such a state, humility is the virtue of men, and their only defense; to walk humbly with God, never doubting, whatever befall, that His will is good, and that His law is right.  (Paul Elmer More)
To be a preacher requires two apparently contradictory qualities: confidence and humility. (Timothy Radcliffe)

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less.  (Rick Warren)
There is no respect for others without humility in one's self.  (Henri Frederic Amiel)
Humility is attentive patience.  (Simone Weil)

A sarcastic person has a superiority complex that can be cured only by the honesty of humility. (Lawrence G. Lovasik)
Nothing is more deceitful than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.  (Jane Austen)
The proud man can learn humility, but he will be proud of it. (Mignon McLaughlin)
Tell him, on the contrary, that he needs, in the interest of his own happiness, to walk in the path of humility and self-control, and he will be indifferent, or even actively resentful. (Irving Babbitt)

When someone saves your life and gives you life, there's gratitude, humility; there's a time you've been so blessed you realize you've been given another chance at life that maybe you did or didn't deserve. (Pat Summerall)
And when our baby stirs and struggles to be born it compels humility: what we began is now its own. (Margaret Mead)

 Humility is really important because it keeps you fresh and new.  (Steven Tyler)
Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life. (George Arliss)
If we learn not humility, we learn nothing. (John Jewel)
The job is to ask questions-it always was-and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.  (Arthur Miller)
Real genius is nothing else but the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought. (Simone Weil)
Fullness of knowledge always means some understanding of the depths of our ignorance; and that is always conducive to humility and reverence. (Robert Millikan)

If one takes pride in one's craft, you won't let a good thing die. Risking it through not pushing hard enough is not a humility.  (Paul Keating)
I believe the first test of a truly great man is in his humility.  (John Ruskin)
Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.  (Dwight D. Eisenhower)

What are your thoughts about humility?


Rozy Lass said...

I have learned, as others before have, that if I don't humble myself, God will humble me and it won't be pretty. Pride is one of the most stubborn of my sins. I hope I can conquer it before my time on earth runs out.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and so many good thoughts from others.