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Main Point: True humility is joyful and kind to all.
Chinese finger trap- the harder you try the more trapped you become.
Getting rid of pride is like fighting a Chinese finger trap. The harder you try to not be prideful the more prideful you become! You genuinely try to do nice things for people but they walk all over you and that ticks you off. Okay so you try putting others first, choosing to be last, and there at the back of the line you stew in bitterness. Okay so you decide to become radical and give yourself to the poor and they are ungrateful mooches. The more you strive to get rid of pride the more prideful you become.
In Luke 14 Jesus challenges the Pharisees concerning the issues of compassion, pride, and self promotion. Each scenario is a challenge to the Pharisees and to us as well. So we will look at each challenge and see how each is answered in the gospel which produces joyous humility.
Read Luke 14:1-14
These events force us to ask serious questions about the way we view ourselves. Here’s the first
I. Are you compassionate or self-righteous? (vs 1-6)
Here is a man with a real need. He has dropsy which is the excessive build up of water usually in a person’s legs. It can be quite painful and would render a Jew unclean in that condition (Lev 15). Physically the man is hurting. Spiritually and relationally he is treated as an outsider. But the self-righteous Pharisees don’t care. Know this
Being legalistic is a trap
Verse one tells us this dinner party happened on a Sabbath. Jesus was invited to a meal in an upper level Pharisee’s house. They were watching him, testing him, and trying to catch him in some error. We don’t know if the man with dropsy was planted there or just happened to be there. Either way, Jesus’ response became the focus.
Notice that Jesus is on the offensive here. He poses the question in verse 3, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” Look at their response in verse 4, “They remained silent.” They are caught in the trap of legalism. If they say it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath then they will lose all their points for keeping the Sabbath. And they can’t afford to lose points. They’re trying to win God’s favor. But if they say it is not lawful to heal on the Sabbath they lose all their points for being jerks. So they remain silent.
Jesus then takes the man, heals him, and sends him away. Here is the kicker, verse 5, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” Showing compassion to those in need was a no brainer. But these Pharisees were not able to show compassion. They were stuck in the trap of legalism.
Being legalistic is a trap but being compassionate is freeing. Look at Jesus. He wasn’t concerned about earning the Father’s favor. He wasn’t trying to earn points. He knew the Father already loved him perfectly. This love freed Jesus from the trap of legalism and launched him on a mission of redemption. That is what the gospel does. We join Christ in his mission. Loved ones become loving ones.
So where are you today? Are you free to be compassionate? Do you see the needs and hurts and struggles around you or are you so guilty you are trapped in a vicious cycle of earning God’s favor but constantly failing? Jesus has come and the Spirit has been given so you and I can be joyously humble.
Let’s look at the next scene. Here’s the question
II. Are you content or self-seeking? (vs 7-11)
The Pharisees weren’t the only ones watching. Jesus was watching how the dinner guests were jockeying for position. They were choosing the places of honor. Maybe you have been at a formal dinner connected with a wedding where the tables were arranged with a “head table”. The bride and groom would sit at this table. Their place at the table marked them out as the most important. Dinner parties in Jesus’ day were known for the same thing. Your position in relation to that head table revealed your relative worth compared to others. The more powerful, influential, and important you were the closer you sat to the head table. The less powerful, influential, and important you were the farther you sat from the head table.
No one at this party wanted to be seen as less powerful, influential, or important than others. No one wanted to sit in the low spot, the mush pot of shame, so they choose the more honorable seats for themselves. Here’s the point
Self-promotion is a trap
This is sad but true. We think we are more important than we actually are. Like this man who chose a higher spot than gets booted to the bottom. He was convinced of his worth. He deserved to be seen as important. But in reality he was the low man on the totem pole so he had to take the walk of shame to the lowest seat.
If you are constantly comparing yourself to others you are stuck in a trap. The harder you try to prove your worth the more stuck you will become. If you are constantly talking about yourself and constantly correcting others you are stuck in a trap. Self-promotion is a trap. But
Being content is freeing
Don’t read this seat choosing story so that humility becomes hijacked for self-promotion. Jesus is not encouraging us to pretend to be humble so we can actually be exalted. Jesus doesn’t want you to choose a low seat and then expect to be bumped up. I picture this guy choosing the low seat and then fake coughing every time the host comes by in order to draw attention to himself and get moved up. Don’t hijack humility.
Now, is it possible for the humble person to be moved up? Sure it is possible but that’s not the goal of the truly humble. The truly humble are content being last. The truly humble are not angry for being overlooked. The truly humble are there to enjoy the party.
Think about it this way, the prideful person cannot enjoy the simple pleasures of life. He can’t enjoy the meal. She can’t enjoy the people. They are too busy trying to get what they think they deserve, namely a higher seat.
Here is Jesus’ advice. When you are invited take the lowest seat. After all it is what you deserve. Enjoy the meal and be thankful. Get to know the people and show compassion. If the host should move you up, great, praise God who has shown you grace. If you should remain in the low seat then praise God you were even invited.
Everyone who exalts himself by choosing the higher seat will be humbled by being moved down. Everyone who exalts himself by expecting a higher seat will be humbled by being left to stew in a low place. Everyone who humbles himself and considers others more significant than himself will be exalted, sometimes in this life and sometimes in the next.
This we know, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). So where are you today? Are you content or are you self-seeking? The gospel of Jesus Christ produces contentment (Phil 4:11). Here’s our next question
III. Are you an investor or a debt-collector? (12-14)
Speaking of meals, here is another truth. Verse 12, “When you give a dinner or banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
It is absolute ignorance to think Jesus is prohibiting partying with your friends. Think of Matthew’s party with all his friends. Think of all the meals Jesus was invited to. Think of the meal in the home of Mary and Martha. Is Jesus commanding us to only have weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays with complete strangers? To say yes is to make the mistake of separating one particular scene from the broader storyline of Scripture. Read verses 15-24 and you’ll see the problem is not that the host invited friends and neighbors to the party but that those invited did not come. There is more going on here than a simple command to only party with strangers. Here’s the point
Keeping score is a trap
Pride and self-promotion often lead us to associate only with those people who are like us or with those people who can give us some good. We look at our friends and relatives and complain about how it must be our turn to host the next get together. We then spend weeks moaning about how much it costs. But hey they had you over so you need to invite them over. Even worse is the person who only associates with those people who can give him what he wants. Here hospitality becomes a self-seeking bribe.
If you complain it is your turn to host then you are keeping score. If you demand others host because you already have then you are keeping score. If you ignore those people who can’t help you along then you are keeping score. You are in a trap and honestly you are probably an unhappy though well partied sap. Here is good news
Living for heaven is freeing
The A-team, B-team, and C-team lists do not hold up in eternity. The bouncer’s list of who can get in does not hold up in eternity. Stop keeping score. Know this Christian, you are chosen, holy, and loved (Col 3:12). You can’t be moved any higher than your position of honor in Jesus Christ. You can’t become more accepted, more treasured, or more valuable. You are chosen, holy, and loved. The cross has made you flawless.
So throw a party ruled by your identity in Christ. You don’t need to pay people back or climb the ladder. The God who has shown you compassion is leading you to show compassion. You were poor, crippled, lame, and blind and God invited you in. Go and do the same. And what is going to happen? Someone is going to break your stuff. Someone is going to take advantage of you. Someone is going to make it hard on you. What I’m saying is someone is going to treat you the way you treat Jesus.
But know this, “you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” You are not going to hear “well done my good and faithful servant” because you knew how to play the system and put yourself first. You are going to hear “well done my good and faithful servant” because you did the Father’s will.
Think about it this way. God has invited you a poor sinner to his table. Those transformed more and more into his image will use their own tables to show compassion, make friends, and meet needs. Throw a compassion party. That is so hard to do!
It is so hard to be compassionate because people are wasters. It is so hard to be content because I deserve better. Here’s the bigger picture. Here is
IV. How to grow in humility
And by growing in humility we will grow in joy. Simply put, in order to grow in humility we need to rest in the work of the Triune God. I want to remind us of some biblical truths which are meant to crush our destructive pride and increase our joyous humility.
God in his sovereignty chose you, his enemy
The Father sovereignly chose you and drew you to Christ
The truth concerning God’s work of election slays our pride. God did not choose us because he saw that we would choose him. God did not choose us because he saw our potential usefulness for his kingdom. God doesn’t need us on his team. If he needed help he wouldn’t pick you or me! But God did choose you. He does love you. This is grace.
Rehearse these truths. Before the foundation of the world, God chose us in Christ (Eph 1:4). The Father predestined us for adoption as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ (Eph 1:5). And don’t be fooled. God didn’t choose us because we were good. We were enemies of God dead in our sins unable to love and live for God (Eph 2:1-10). That God would love us his sin-stained enemies and make us his own is humbling. We do not deserve to be called children of God but that is what we are. Think of God’s sovereign work of election and it will humble you. Many despise the doctrine of election for this very reason. Think about election, it humbles.
Think about and thank Jesus for the cross
Isn’t it true that pride leads some people to expect others to pay their debt? Because I am who I am you are duty-bound to pay my way. Pastors and pastor’s kids struggle with this mentality. But pride also expresses itself in the refusal to be served. To be served means I have some need. To be served means I can’t do it on my own. To be served means I owe you something. You will never serve me because I am awesome and I don’t need you.
Friend you cannot pay your debt with God. You need the crucified and resurrected Jesus. The cross declares you are not able to save yourself. You cannot pay the price for your own sin. Jesus gladly pays it for you. You need the death and resurrection of Jesus. You simply cannot be proud when we stand at the foot of the cross. There at the cross you see how big your debt truly is demanding the death of God himself. You should draw back in shame. But there at the cross you have reason to rejoice. Your debt has been paid! Think about and thank Jesus for the cross and
Think about and thank God for the Spirit
Last week we looked at why we need the Spirit. We need the Spirit’s leadership, assurance, and prayers. Today let’s add this truth. We need the Spirit so we can understand the truth concerning Jesus. You cannot love Jesus on your own. The Spirit of God must give you the wisdom of God concerning the Son of God. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). You need the resurrected Jesus to give you His Holy Spirit. Do not feather pride’s nest with unbiblical ideas of free will. Your will was enslaved to sinful desires. Your will was enslaved following the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:3). But the Spirit quickened you. The Father drew you. You saw your sin and you saw Jesus (2 Cor 3:12-4:6). Because of the Spirit you believed and were saved. Think about and thank God for the Spirit. Without him you would be lost.
Here’s the truth from a different angle. Here is how to grow in humility.
Boast about your weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The truth is God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5; Prov 3:34). From eternity past God saw your sins, your struggles, and your weaknesses. And He loved you! In a moment in history he atoned for all your sins. Through the miracle of faith God gifts you with the Holy Spirit. You have everything you need but only if you ask for it. You have everything you need but only if you own your need and ask for Christ.
The Apostle Paul saw his need. He knew joyfully following the Father while enduring difficulty was an impossible task. He also knew what is impossible with man is possible with God (Mark 10:27). Jesus gives sufficient grace to those who seek it. So Paul wrote, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that he power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Here’s the point. Our attempts to get out of the finger trap of sin by keeping score, being self-righteous, and being self-seeking only make the problems worse. Being set free for joy and fruitful living comes only through resting in Christ and depending on His Holy Spirit. You can show compassion. You can be content. You can look forward to a heavenly reward.
How? Jesus’ invitation to us is to boast in our weaknesses. We can’t defeat pride. We can’t believe in Jesus. We can’t show compassion. We can’t love or serve or make ourselves happy. Every attempt is like tugging against a Chinese finger trap. It only makes it worse. We need Jesus to cleanse us and strengthen us. The good news is Jesus is the perfect Savior. He came to cleanse us. He sent his Spirit to strengthen us. Let’s go to him and ask for help.14