In the text for this week, Jesus is invited to partake in a meal at the home of a “prominent Pharisee.” When he notices how the guests choose places of honor, Jesus admonished them to first select “lower seats” so that if someone more distinguished arrives they would not have to be embarrassed by being asked to move. Essentially, Jesus tells the guests to position themselves in a way that invites promotion, instead of demotion.
This advice attests to the practicality and relevance of the words of Jesus. This sensible suggestion is great for people that will attend a banquet or a dinner party, but it is also very applicable to those of us who are leaders. As leaders there are various types of “seats” to which we can aspire. There are the distinguished physical seats that can be located at the head of a boardroom table, on a stage, in a front pew, or in the prime office space of a building. However, there are also prominent positional seats that are designated by titles, jurisdiction, power, influence and/or authority.
Most people want to be honored and there is nothing wrong with aspiring for more, but the risk of embarrassment arises when we assume that a prestigious “seat” belongs to us. This presumption could be based upon an over-estimation of our longevity, contributions, class, wealth, intelligence or experiences in comparison to others. However, the text tells us that when we walk into any situation or opportunity, we must remember to check our ego at the door.
When we attempt to elevate ourselves beyond the place that God has provided and prepared for us, we make ourselves vulnerable to will and whims of other people. Choosing a “lower seat” is not a call for self-degridation, but rather a call for humility, which can prevent public humiliation.
Questions for the Road:
- Are my ambitions in alignment with God’s will for my life?
- How much time and energy do I spend trying to “get ahead”?
- Is there a title or position that I want, based upon the perceived prestige or power that comes with it?
- Does my leadership and stewardship invite promotion or demotion?