Jesus was invited to dine with some of the Pharisees on more than one occasion. Luke 14 records a Sabbath day visit to a Pharisee’s home. As He walked in, the Lord saw a man with dropsy. It is very doubtful the Pharisee customarily had diseased men in his home; this man was likely planted so they might have something to accuse Jesus of. He had healed several people on the Sabbath before, much to the displeasure of the Pharisees. Jesus asked those who stood by whether it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not – they would not answer. He healed the man, and then taught those who were there why it was right to heal on the Sabbath. If it was right to do good to an animal on the Sabbath (Luke 13:15), then was it not also right to do good to a man?
It was at this point that He shared a parable with them, for He saw the lofty attitude they had about themselves. Hear His words:
When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honourable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:8-11)
The Pharisees had a tendency to elevate themselves above others. We looked a few weeks ago at the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18), which captures the arrogance that was characteristic of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and their utter disdain for others. As we look at the parable before us now, consider that the guests in the Pharisee’s home were likely other Pharisees. This inclination to exalt themselves above others was not just how they treated the common people—it was also how they treated one another!
How long Jesus watched the Pharisees compete with one another for the best seats in the house, we do not know; but He couldn’t see such and not respond. When those who claim to represent God act in a way that is unbecoming of their claim, something needs to be said.
That is not only true of the Pharisees on that particular occasion, but is true any time someone who claims to walk in the way of the Lord conducts themselves contrary to His will. We’re not told how the Pharisees received His rebuke. If we look at the history of their interaction with Jesus, they were likely angry with Him and unwilling to change. May we not be like them. If someone has taken the time and care to share their concerns with us, for our benefit, we ought to thankfully listen and humbly make any appropriate changes. If our sin is a haughty spirit, may we repent and display the humility of Christ in our lives instead. Recall the words of the apostle Paul:
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus who … humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:3-5, 8)
Jesus humbled Himself, and now He has been exalted by the Lord (Philippians 2:9-11). We should all conduct ourselves with humility, for in due time, God will exalt us.
Jesus continued in Luke 14 to give more instruction to the Pharisees with regard to their dinners. Notice:
When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14:12-14).
To do something, expecting something in return, is another way the haughty spirit shows itself. Jesus asked in the sermon on the mount:
…if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? (Matthew 5:46-47)
May selfish ambitions not be our motivation to do good. If it is, know that those who exalt themselves will be humbled. Rather, let us do good from a humble heart, knowing that God will bless us and exalt us in heaven.