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"He went on to tell a story to the guests around the table. Noticing how each had tried to elbow into the place of honour at the table, He said, 'When someone invites you to dinner, don't take the place of honour. Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host. Then he'll come and call out in front of everybody, ' You're in the wrong place. The place of honour belongs to this man.' Red-faced, you'll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.'" Luke 14:7-9 (The Message).
Seating around the table at a Middle Eastern dinner party in Jesus' day was somewhat different from the way westerners do it. The table was low and the guests reclined on cushions on their left elbows. This meant that each guest had his back to the person on his left. The place of honour would be the place on the left of the host because that person was close enough to engage in conversation with the host.
The one on the right of the host would be on the right of the host at the end of the table - leaning against the host. This was probably the place occupied by John at the Last Supper and the place of honour, on Jesus' left, by Judas because Jesus was able to converse freely with him and offer him the sop.
What is it about us human beings that we have a craving to be noticed? From early childhood, the little one cries, "Look at me, daddy; look at me, mommy!" To be the guest-of-honour was to be noticed, to be important in the eyes of the host. Why do we crave to feel important? Is it because we have a deep, inborn sense of worthlessness which we can only deal with by constantly seeking affirmation and approval? Every guest wanted the place of honour, to be noticed by the host.
Being important has temporary significance but it is, in fact, like an addiction which has to be fed. Significant people's approval stills that craving for a while but it keeps coming back. What lies behind this 'approval addiction'? Is there some deep-seated insecurity that drives us to seek attention and to be important to someone? When the father-child relationship is disturbed for whatever reason, the need for approval from someone significant drives people to seek attention elsewhere.
If alienation from our earthly fathers fuels that craving - how much more alienation from our heavenly Father? When we have settled the problem of sin that created the rift between us and God, through Jesus, we experience a sense of security in Him which sets us free from that need to be noticed.
That brings me to something else. What was it about people that Jesus noticed? He noticed the Pharisees and was thoroughly put off? He also noticed the tax collectors and sinners and was drawn to them. Why? I think it was the difference between hypocrisy and honesty. The Pharisees liked to draw attention to their external 'righteousness' to get people's approval, but Jesus saw through them. It was a cover-up for the rottenness inside which they refused to admit.
The other group had nothing to hide. They knew they were bad; they knew Jesus was good but they loved to be with Him and He loved to be with them anyway. Their bad behaviour did not put Him off as much as the Pharisees' dishonesty did. Jesus can handle our sin but He cannot handle our pride.
We often find it easy to be honest about other people. We open our mouths freely about what we don't like about them and take pride in our being 'straight' with people, but what about honesty about ourselves? That's a different matter because it takes humility to own up to who we are. And that's exactly the point! God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. If you are honest about your own faults, guess what! Jesus has no issues with you. You will be free to occupy the seat of honour at His table.
But it's your choice, once again...
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