There is the story told of a man with two heads. Each head was extremely annoying as they both bragged about what a great man he was and how he was friends with practically everybody who was anybody. One day while he was bragging about his friendships, he mentioned the time he had dinner with the President at the White House. One of the onlookers called him out and noted that the President would be visiting the city in the next week. After the discussion was over it was agreed that the whole group would gather outside the hotel where the President would be staying to greet him as he entered the hotel. The big day arrived. The President saw the crowd and, as the ultimate politician, shook hands with everyone in the group, but gave no special recognition to the two-headed man. When his friends gave him a bad time about that, he shook his heads and sighed, “He must not have recognized me with my sunglasses on.”
We all want others to recognize that there is something special about us. We might have pictures on the wall with celebrities that we happened to meet. We might brag about our exploits hoping that others will love us as much as we love ourselves. We want others to honor us because, by golly, we’re pretty special. Jesus told a parable that must have been based on today’s passage from Proverbs. It’s a wedding feast and some guy goes and grabs the seat next to the bride’s father. He figures that they’ve known each other for a while so that he can look good by sitting next to an old friend. The bride’s father comes in a bit later with the people he wants to sit with and he sees the guy who has taken that prime spot. The bride’s father looks at the guy and says, “Hey man, I’m so sorry. I need to talk with these guys. Can you find another seat?” The poor guy, humiliated, has to find a seat at the last table with the crazy uncle that almost didn’t get invited. Jesus remarked, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)
It’s easy to look at others who tend to go a bit overboard when they are describing their own great qualities and shake our heads. No one likes a braggart. We like to see people like that get their comeuppance. At the same time, these words of Jesus speak not only of the person who brags incessantly, they speak also of those of us who quietly think that we are better than others. We belong to the right church. We have the right kind of job. My kids would never do that. We may not make those statements audible to others, but they are running around in the backs of our heads. Rather than seeing people who are different from us, or are having troubles as people who need the love of Jesus that we can show, we silently put them down so that we can exalt ourselves by comparison.
We must see those people as Jesus sees them: as sinners in need of God’s love. We should be able to do that because we should be able to remember how Jesus sees us: as sinners in need of God’s love. In the eyes of God, there is only one kind of person: sinners in need of God’s love. Oh, we may have turned to Jesus and accepted His offer to become children of God through faith in Christ, but we are still sinners and still need God’s love. Jesus didn’t die more for that person because they are worse than us. His blood was spent for all people because we all needed the salvation that can only come through faith in Him. That is how we receive grace. That is why we should extend God’s grace to others.
Oh Lord, it is hard to be humble. I like to think that I am better than others or even better than whatever is happening. Remind me that I have no cause to exalt myself in Your kingdom. Remind me that Your grace is the only reason I can be in fellowship with You.