Based on: Luke 14:1,7-14
It is the day of the wedding and you are a good friend of the groom. You go to the wedding. You get there early for the reception. You find a place to sit very close to the bride and groom. You are proud to be connected to this fine couple who just got married. You settle into your seat and get ready for what is sure to be a wonderful celebration. You see the groom come in the room and you wave and smile as he comes toward you. When he gets to where you are he says, “I was going to save that seat for someone else.” How embarrassing! Apparently you are not as important a friend as you thought you were.
Today, Jesus warns us against pride – not the pride you have in knowing you have used your gifts to God’s glory, not the pride you have when someone else is praised for a job well done, but Jesus warns against the pride of thinking more highly of ourselves than we should.
Have you ever seen this kind of pride? It’s pretty ugly, isn’t it! There is a saying that, “Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.”
One of the ways this pride shows itself is when people draw attention to themselves. You know the type – somehow conversations with them tend to focus on them more than on others. They want to tell you what they have done or who they know and they don’t seem very interested in your life.
But pride is not just saying, “Look how good I am.” Pride can also be, “Look how bad I have it.” When people are too eager to tell you all about their problems and are unwilling to listen, aren’t they still saying, “Look at me. I deserve your attention.”
Just as Jesus pointed out, pride causes us to take the better seat, to take the spotlight, to draw attention to ourselves.
But pride also shows itself in the way we treat others, as our lesson from the letter of James pointed out. Pride will cause us to treat someone well if we think we can get something back from them. Are they rich, have influence, or make us feel good? Then we want them around because that relationship could be a benefit for us. This is offensive to God because we are using our own standards to judge others instead of God’s standards. I am convinced that we do this more than we realize. This kind of pride leads to all kinds of prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination against those who don’t meet our own criteria.
It gets worse. Pride causes all sorts of other problems: Fights and arguments – “I’m right and you are wrong.” Jealousy when I think I deserve something more than the other person. Frustration and anger when things don’t go my way. Refusing to repent when I am wrong. Refusing to forgive when someone says they are sorry. Pride destroys relationships. It tears us apart from other people.
Pride also tears us from God. Because of pride we don’t want to submit to God’s Word. We don’t want to learn more. We think we know enough. We think we know better. Finally, any sin is a sin of pride. Every sin says to God, “I know better. I can decide for myself what is right and wrong.” Every sin is a rejection of God’s authority and a raising up of self. God will not tolerate it. All those who are proud God will send away. They will not enjoy his blessings. So we can say that in the end pride destroys those who are proud.
You have heard the saying, “Pride goes before the fall.” It is really a summary of a verse from Proverbs 16 – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” You can probably think of examples of people who caused problems for themselves because of their pride. It has happened over and over again. Finally, pride will cause an eternal fall into punishment.
As we have already mentioned, pride is a very ugly thing when we see it in others. Pride causes considerable damage to our relationships when it comes into our lives. Eventually pride will destroy us in hell.
That is why Jesus warns us against pride with this parable about the man who thought he deserved the better seat and us through the Apostle Paul, “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.” And in Proverbs, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.” Over and over again the Bible warns us to recognize our real status before God as sinners.
You might think that our own pride would be thwarted when we realize that we are only one in almost seven billion people in this world and that each one of us has only a very small amount of the wealth in this world. In the large picture of the world we are not as important as we think we are. But we need to hear more than that.
We need to hear about our status before God. Take a look at all the people who have, in their pride, rejected God – Cain, the people destroyed in the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh, the people of Canaan conquered by Israel, the Israelites who would not repent before being captured by Babylon, and more. Did God owe them anything? Did they have anything to be proud of before God?
We are in the same situation. God owes us nothing. Standing before him we can only expect punishment. But instead of trying to take the best seat, we take the lowliest place. Instead of pointing to ourselves in pride, we point to Christ.
We point to Christ who called the Pharisees to repentance and warns us with this parable. We point to Christ who never pointed to himself out of selfish pride, but pointed to himself as our Savior out of love for us.
With him our status before God changes. When Jesus lived on this earth, it was a perfect life, never giving in to the temptation of pride. Then as he hung on the cross he stood before God carrying all our sinful pride. God punished him for our sin and exchanged our sin for his perfect life. Our new status before God is one of sinlessness. We can stand before God as his child without fear of punishment. It is something to be proud of, not in a self-serving way, but in a God-pleasing, grateful way, knowing that we are his children.
Not only that, but God lifts us up in another way. As we come to God in humility and trusting in his mercy, God lifts us up. He moves us to a seat closer to him and gives us a purpose that makes us not just one in seven billion, but a very special part of God’s plan. God continues to call people to faith through the gospel. He uses you to do that.
When you share your faith here in church with others with your songs and your words you are working with God to strengthen the faith of your brothers and sisters in Christ. When you share Christ with others around you, you are God’s agent for calling others to faith. When you give your offerings to the Synod to help with mission work, God is carrying out through you his plan to spread the gospel to all nations. You playing a part in God’s eternal plan of salvation. There is no greater work!
Here are the two possible outcomes for the people of this world. Those who, in their pride, ignore God and his Word, they will one day experience the humiliation of hell, but those who submit to God’s Word and humble themselves before God, they will be given a place of great honor in God’s kingdom. For Jesus says, “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”