“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (V. 11 – NASB)
I am watching my sweet friend sing her heart out to Jesus, watched by thousands of people in the congregation. Weeks later, when the service is broadcasted to the world, she may be seen by millions of people around the globe. I am watching her and I’m smiling. I know her well – she is not there to be seen. As self-conscious as she is, this I know – she is there for one single reason – she loves Jesus and because she does, He has given her the privilege to use her amazing gift for His glory, and to bless our hearts.
Go back twenty centuries and we have the spotlight on people who were sharing a meal with Jesus. In the beginning of chapter 14, we realize that Jesus was at a Pharisee’s house for a meal. There were certainly several of the host’s Pharisee friends present and they were all watching the Lord. They tested Him time and again on matters of the Law, hoping that He would fail. Then the dinner table is set and the spotlight quickly changes from the Lord to those who were eager to be in the limelight. My colorful imagination pictures these ostentatiously meek men, dressed perfectly in their robes of finest white or purple fabric, doing their very best to disguise their true motives as they hurry to pick the most prominent places at the table. I can see Jesus, the heart-Reader, shaking His head as He starts telling the parable of the wedding feast.
As Jesus reads the guests’ hearts and motives, He affirms God’s viewpoint regarding pride: “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor. (…)”, He says on verse eight. Jesus here condemns immodest self-assertion. His message is clear and is repeated throughout the Scriptures: do not exalt yourself, take the lower places, serve and give unselfishly. He indeed proclaimed this message all the way to Calvary.
Pride is certainly a hot button with God. The word “pride” is found over 50 times in Scriptures, one of which is very well known to believers – Proverbs 6:16:
“These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], (…)” Amplified Bible – emphasis added.
Although pride is on top of the list of things that God hates, that much is also true even to us, humans. As sinful as we may be; believers and unbelievers alike despise arrogance. We clap at the end of the movie when the underdog wins! We feel contempt when the arrogant rise to power. We too hate pride. Self-assertion often goes too far for its own ends and it is dishonored, whether the arrogant falls before our eyes or not.
A Dangerous Enemy
Pride is not just ugly; its roots reveal a much dangerous enemy of man’s soul. It was because of pride alone that Lucifer fell from God’s grace and became the enemy of God and His creation (Isaiah 14:12-15). Because of pride God’s own people let the voice of the prophets fall in deaf ears as they shouted at their Messiah: “Crucify Him!”. Pride keeps men from fully surrendering to God and be saved. But pride also can keep God’s people from fulfilling God’s work and enjoying true fellowship with Him.
“But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.” v. 10 (NASB)
Pride Killer – Recognizing the Source of All Talents and Gifts
As we serve God, we must remember to continually surrender and be humble before Him. We must constantly acknowledge that our gifts and the opportunities we are given to use them come from the Father and that He promises us reward in due season:
“So don’t be proud. Put yourselves under God’s mighty hand. Then he will honor you at the right time.” 1 Peter 5:6 (NIRV)
We shall not occupy our minds with the fact that our serving brings no recompense. Neither should we allow our minds to wander as the disciples’ did in Mark 9, when they were arguing amongst themselves to decide who the greatest was. Jesus’ reply was solemn: “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35.
An Audience of One
It is indeed easy to forget that our talents and gifts belong to the One who disperses them. If that is a challenge to you, if you feel like the world does not recognize what you do and does not reward you justly, remember: you are working for an audience of One: “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23 (NLT).
Truth be told, we are polluted with the world’s math, where the words of the day are “networking”‘ and “self-marketing”. If you know the right people and you promote yourself well, you should do just fine. In Kingdom’s math, however, the equation is flipped to the other side. You should know One person, and you should use your gifts and talents to promote Him, not you. Humbly serve Him! The promotion is sure and the dividends are many, even though some of God’s richest people die unknown to this world and materially poor.
His promises regarding our recompense are set in stone, although our treasures are many times unseen. Indeed, we shall only enjoy some of them when we enter His glory (Matthew 6:20). As you are called to serve, work humbly and diligently at whatever you were called to do, whether it is teaching, singing, caring for children, cleaning or cooking. Work and perform as if only your Jesus were watching. And if you happen to stand in the spotlight and receive the applause of the world’s audience, or if you are called to sit at His table as His most honored guest, may you never forget: He who put you there, must be the One to receive the glory and praise.
Dear Father, I pray that you forgive me for the times I forget that all my gifts and talents come from you. I pray that you help me become more and more humble and that I don’t ever question if I am not rewarded on this earth for the work I perform for You. Remind me, Abba Father, that the talents and gifts that You gave me are to be used that the world may see You and glorify You, not me. I trust your Word that says that you reward those who faithfully serve You. I thank you for the opportunity to be used in Your kingdom. Teach my heart and mind to understand that being chosen to serve You is indeed a great reward in itself. In Jesus’ name, Amen!