SCRIPTURES – Proverbs 25:2-10; Hebrews 13:1-17; Luke 14:1-14
“Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Boy, what a strange society it was in which Jesus lived. Can you imagine where you are sitting being a major concern? (Now, walk out to someone who’s sitting in the middle or the back of the congregation and say) Friend, move up higher! There’s plenty of room for you in the front pew. Sit up there, closer to me!
Why were the people who, along with Jesus, were invited to the Pharisee’s house worried about where they would sit? Their status, and what others would think of them, was indicated by where they sat. Well, we may do things differently today, but we still worry about what others think of us. We do so more than ever!
Your Lord wants you to be humble and not worry about your status. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted,” Christ says. So: are you humble? That’s a tough question to answer. I mean, it’s kind of like being asked, “Have you stopped beating your spouse?” To say, “Sure, I’m humble,” is boasting; but who wants to admit to not being humble? Humility is difficult!
It’s especially difficult because Jesus is focusing on actions more than attitudes. What is humility? Well, walking around with your head down and thinking that you’re less than others is not humility. Every one of us is less than others in certain ways.
Ø Maybe you’re not very athletic.
Ø Or you don’t make as much money as someone else.
Ø Perhaps you’re not as smart as someone else.
Ø Maybe it’s just that you can’t do what you used to do.
Remember: God made you in His image and likeness. He gave His Son to bear your sins and die on the cross for you, and so God has saved you from being condemned for your sins. He put His name upon you in your Baptism and has made you His own. You are God’s child and can call upon Him as your Father! You need never hang your head and belittle yourself. That does not please God, and is not humility.
Neither is humility avoiding people, or ignoring wrongdoing and sin, in order to have peace and tranquility. Just look at Jesus. He went to the Pharisee’s house, even though He knew they opposed Him and would be watching Him critically. He healed a sick man there, even though He knew that they would consider it wrong because He did it on the Sabbath Day. He confronted both His host and his guests with their selfishness and challenged them to change their behavior. He did not avoid them or their sin that He might have peace, but humbled Himself and served them by confronting them, even though it cost Him, for He wanted them to repent and have God’s peace.
This is humility: taking the lower place, the place of service, for the ultimate good and blessing of others. More than an attitude, it is action; action for the sake of others, even of those with whom you are at odds. Today’s readings give us examples of such humility. It is:
Ø Obeying your leaders and submitting to them, even when they are not the best. Jesus called for obedience to Caesar!
Ø Honoring marriage as God’s good gift by leading sexually pure lives. Treat your spouse with honor. Consider sex as God’s good gift for marriage, and not as just for your own pleasure. “God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous,” Hebrews 13 warns.
Ø Prov. 25 says that humility is speaking with your neighbor when you have a disagreement and not revealing things. Don’t blast away on Facebook or Twitter to exalt yourself and bring another down, but seek to help and protect others and their reputations!
Many more examples could be given. We are to humbly serve, as Christ did. Who is up to Christ’s humility? I am not. I have failed many times, and will do so again. So have you. But Jesus is among us now as our Friend and Savior, and not our Judge. He lowers Himself for us, that in Him we might be exalted.
Consider that poor man with dropsy who was in the Pharisee’s house. Dropsy was a disfiguring affliction. We call it edema today, a condition of swelling caused by fluid retention. In Jesus’ society a person with dropsy would have been considered unclean, and a Pharisee concerned with holiness would never invite him into his house. And yet, he was there. The man with dropsy was a plant. He was being used that Jesus might be accused. The Lord did not shy away from him, however. He took hold of him and healed him. The man would now no longer be looked at or talked about or avoided; but Jesus would. Now, even more than before, the Pharisees would consider Jesus to be the unclean one.
Hebrews 13 says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” He still draws near to those who are sinful and unclean. He comes and takes upon Himself our uncleannesses and is willing to bear the name “sinner” for us, that we might be clean and holy. He is among you now in His Word and Sacraments to touch you with His healing. He humbles Himself to exalt you, and spreads before you the Sabbath Feast of His body and blood, the foretaste of the eternal feast to come in heaven. You can be no more highly exalted than you are this day in Christ!
“I will never leave you nor forsake you,” your Lord promises. Jesus is with you, and even within you, as you go forth: forth from this worship and this church; forth into your life. Go forth as Him, humbling yourself to serve others and bring His blessing to them. Whether this is appreciated or not, whether you are praised or reviled, Christ will be pleased; and He will be pleased to hold you. “He who humbles himself will be exalted,” Jesus promises. “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
In the name of Him who humbled Himself for us that we might be exalted, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen