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"When you're invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place. Then when the host comes he may very well say, 'Friend, come up to the front.' That will give the dinner guests something to talk about! What I'm saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face. But if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself," Luke 14:10-11 (The Message).
Strange how pride and self-promotion actually do the opposite of what we are wanting to achieve! Jesus gives us a bit of homely wisdom which may not appear to be important in the bigger scheme of things but it will make a big difference to our lives in the long run. 'Don't promote yourself,' He said, 'Let someone else recognize who you really are and give you the place of honour.' When we are so self-absorbed that we see no-one and nothing else, we are likely to trip over our own big feet!
King David, in his teenage years as a shepherd caring for sheep and living close to nature, made a discovery which influenced his whole life and contributed to his greatness as Israel's model king. He captured his discovery in his most-loved psalm - Psalm 23. We miss the impact of what he was saying in the translation. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want," is so familiar to us that we are comforted by the promise of God's faithful provision for all our needs. But why should we be amazed that God does what He said He would do because He is who He is - a loving and caring Father?
The underlying thought in this observation is far more signficant than God's faithful provision for His children, as great a promise as that is for us. God is far more interested in who we are than in our circumstances. Let's explore the deeper meaning of David's words. "The Lord is my authority (implying that He has the last word - no-one can contradict or oppose Him); therefore I shall never be diminshed."
God is all for giving us understanding of who we really are. Our sin nature has an inbuilt capacity to diminish us in our own estimation and Satan has a field day with our 'self-worth'. We have to bolster it up by self-importance and self-promotion, like the person who elbows his way to the top of the table. Jesus assures us, 'You don't need to do that because your real worth lies in who you are, not where you sit or who notices you.' We evaluate ourselves, very often, by the way we feel, and our feelings follow our interpretation of events. For example, a woman who was molested as a child feels dirty, guilty and responsible for what happened to her. She interprets her worth according to her feelings and, consequently, diminshes herself and believes that everyone else diminshes her as well.
When Israel was in slavery in Egypt, they were diminshed to the status of 'property' and were treated like possessions to be handled by their slave-owners as they chose. God had to re-educate His people to the realisation that they were people, not possessions and precious and beloved to Him.
His first promise, hidden in the words of His preamble to the Ten Commandments ("I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of slavery, out of the land of slavery..."), has this assurance hidden in the Hebrew words, 'Your authority grows inside the boundary of your submission and worship'. In other words, 'As long as you submit to and worship me as your God, you will never be diminished.'
There's the key to understanding who we really are, not in the attention and accolades we seek from so-called 'important' people (who are they really but ordinary people like ourselves), but in the value God puts on us as His sons and daughters, created in image to reflect Him. And so Jesus concludes, 'If you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself'.
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