3. Humilty and Comparison.
We often look at the people around us and think, “How do compare to them? At least I do, “How is my house, my job, my kids, my life compared to others?'” Nothing will kill your joy like competition and comparison. Jesus saw this going on and he teaches his disciples (and now us) a lesson in humility. He was at this dinner party and He sees the head table. They usually sit in a U shape with a head table up in front and a chair that would be next to the guest of honor. If you wanted to be greatest at the party you’d be sitting in this chair. That’s where you’d be. As the “U” went around and went down toward the end there would also be a seat. If you were sitting down there you were the least at the party. So people when they walk in, what do they do? They’re milling around up near the place of honor. “I’m better than he, and smarter than he is… I deserve that spot.” So they’re hanging around close to that spot, like musical chairs.
So He said to them, in Luke 14:10-11 “When you’re invited, take the lowest place so that when the host comes he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” So here’s the test. A lesson in greatness. Jesus said, Exalt yourself – that’s getting the upper hand, take the top spot. Or humble yourself – take the lowest spot.
The amazing thing to me is that Jesus didn’t just say, “Be satisfied with the lowest seat.” Notice what He said. He said take the lowest place. Not just be satisfied if you get stuck there and say it’s ok. He says take the lowest place. For me, I’d be more than happy to take the lowest place, to sit in that spot if I knew that someone was going to come and tap me on the shoulder and say, “Come on up here and sit in the highest spot.” I’d be glad to take the lowest place every time. But what if I take the lowest place and I get stuck there. And I see somebody sitting up there who I know is a lot worse off than I am. What in the world am I doing down here and they’re up there? How did that work out?
In our maturity, as we grow in this area of comparing and competing with one another, there are some steps that we all go through.
Step one is striving for what we perceive is the top place. “I’m milling around with the top dogs, the movers and shakers. Who’s popular, that’s where I’m going to be! I’m at the top because that’s where I want to be because that’s what’s going to make me feel important.
Step two in this growth to humility in my life is I take the lowest place. I’ll talk to that person who is not as popular but hoping that it’s going to get me to the to the top. I’ll do some things I don’t want to do hoping someone will see and I’ll get a raise or promotion! Maybe it’s just my way to the top spot.
Step three, being equally comfortable in the lowest place or the top place Because it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter who we think is first. Step three is realizing if I’m here, God may just want to be here. There may be somebody sitting next to me that I can talk to that I wouldn’t be talking to if I were not there. There maybe somebody that I’m sitting next to who’ll talk to me, that can impact my life, make a difference in my life. I may not have to be such a phony if I’m at this place. I may be able to be more myself. God can use me at the place I’m at.
Equally satisfied wherever God happens to put me. I’m not there yet. I don’t know about you but I’m not there yet. But I hope to get there. I want to be there. I want to live that kind of a life. I don’t want to live my life so concerned about comparing and competing that it eats up my life.
Greatness is not a matter of winning a competition. That’s what Jesus taught about it. It’s a matter of living the life that God gave you to live. And your life is unique. No one else can live your life. Jesus is a lot more concerned about how you’re helping other people run the race of life than whether you’re ahead of other people in the race of life.
Philippians 2:3 says “Be humble and consider others more important than yourself.” That’s upside down. That’s not the way most of us think – consider other people more important that ourselves?
Take the lowest place. What does that mean in every day life? It means this: don’t waste one more minute of your life worrying about who’s first, who’s more important, who has more. It’s a waste of time. Don’t waste another second of your life worrying about that.
Because competition, and we are really into competition especially in America. In the end all this competition it doesn’t matter. Your favorite sports team. The one you live and die with, whether they’re on a winning streak or losing streak. In the end it doesn’t matter.
The big business deal you just made. You beat everybody else out. You know you did it. You have that feeling of that. In the end it doesn’t matter.
Or this feeling of, “My kids are better than your kids.” In the end it doesn’t matter.
Why? Because in the end God is first, he’s best. And in the end we’re all going to love that because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Those of you who live for competition. If you’re wired for competition, God wired you that way. I’m not telling you deny the way you were made. If you’re wired for competition, be competitive. But be competitive about something different than you’re competitive about right now. Be competitive about something different than you being first. Because in the end that’s a pretty small goal.
God wired you to be competitive, be competitive about feeding people who are starving. Be competitive about leading people to Christ, giving larger sums of your income and time away. That’s a goal worth of that wiring that God gave you.
If you’re wired to be competitive, be competitive about taking the good news that Jesus Christ loves us to places in the world that no one else would take it to.
If God wired you to be competitive, be competitive about being the best husband, the best wife, the best mom, the best dad you can possibly be.
God gave you that wiring but He didn’t give it to you just so you could use it so you could use it selfishly. He gave it to you and me so that we could be competitive about things that are truly important.
Use the way God made you, enjoy the way God made you, to fulfill His purposes for your life. Instead of comparing and deciding what seat am I sitting in, just wipe all that out and say, “God, whatever seat You put me in, I’m going to, in that seat, do something that makes a difference for your sake in the world today.” That’s Jesus’ path to greatness.
Jesus taught us a fourth key area where we need humily.
- Humility and Our relationship with God
Jesus told the story at the dinner party. He starts out, in Luke 18:10, Two men went to the temple to pray. It’s like, “Did you hear about the two guys that went into a bar (an Aggie and a Longhorn) . He has their attention now. And He tells this story. But it’s not a joke. He tells this story about two men – a proud Pharisee and a sinful tax collector. We may not like tax gathers today because they gather our taxes. But in that day they hated tax collectors because there was nothing good about them. These guys not only gathered their taxes, they stole from people extra money to make themselves rich when they gathered taxes. They served the Roman government, the hated government in order to gather taxes. They were totally hated. So Jesus says these two guys come in. The Pharisee… Yeah! The tax collector… Boo! They both pray a prayer. The Pharisee prays, “God, thank You for all the good things you’ve given me. Thank You that I’m not like other guys, especially that tax collector over there. Thank You, thank You, thank You for me, me, me.” Then Jesus says the tax collector prayed. He wouldn’t even look up to heaven. He bowed his head and beat his chest and he prayed, “God, be merciful to me! I’m a sinner.”
He asked the crowd, “Which of those guys prayed a prayer that was heard by God?” Here’s the punch line. The Bible says in Luke 18:14 Jesus said, “When the two men went home it was the tax collector not the Pharisee who was pleasing to God.”
If you put yourself above others, you’ll be put down. But if you humble yourself, you will be honored. Here’s the greatness test when it comes to our relationship with God. When you exalt yourself, that’s a decision to do it yourself, “I’m going to make this relationship with God work on my own energy, my own strength, my own good works. I’ll do it myself.” But the decision to humble yourself is a decision to trust God. Do it yourself or trust God. Do it yourself religion is all on your shoulders. It’s all what you have to do. In the end all you have is what this Pharisee had – “Thank You, God, that I’m better than so and so.” It’s not much. That’s all you get. In this prayer, one guy prayed “Look at me!” The other guy prayed, “Forgive me.” One guy prayed “I have God’s blessing.” The other guy prayed, “I need God’s mercy.”
Let me ask you a question. As you grow in faith, as you get to know Christ better and better, what should be happening in your life? How should you grow? There should always be a huge part of you that feels– “I need God’s mercy. I need His mercy every day of my life. There’s not a day of my life that I don’t need God’s forgiveness, for sins that I know I committed and a bunch of them I’m not even aware of because I’m an imperfect human being. I need God’s mercy.” If you want to live a great life, never get over that.
The apostle Paul certainly lived a great life. Look at the lives that he impacted. Even at the end of his life he was still saying, I’m the chief of sinners. I’m the greatest sinner that I know. Never get over God’s mercy in your life. That’s one of the secrets to greatness.
So Jesus says do you want to be great, be aware of how much God loves you and how much mercy He has for you. Make a decision to trust Him. 1 Peter 5:5-6 “God is opposed to the proud but He gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time.” That’s trust. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.
Humility is not putting myself down. It’s lifting God up. Humility is being honest about who I am, my strengths and weaknesses. And humility is being honest about who God is, His strengths, His goodness, and what He can do in our life. That’s what humility really is.
Jesus talked about what this kind of trust in God should do in our lives in Matthew 11:29 when He said “Take My yoke [My plan, My direction, My leadership] …Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. For I am gentle and humble in heart [Jesus was humble] and you’ll find rest for your souls.”
Do it yourself or trust God. Jesus said if you’re doing this the right way, trying to get to know God, trying to get closer to Him, you’ll find rest for your souls. If you’re trying to get closer to God and it’s making you feel more and more burdened, more and more pressures on your life trying to get closer to God, something is wrong. It’s not meant to work that way. Jesus said as you get closer to God, you’re supposed to find rest for your souls. Are you doing it yourself? Or are you trusting Him?
Let me pray for us…
Father, we do want to trust You. You know us. It’s hard for us to be humble. We get caught up in ourselves so easily. But I pray that these words of Jesus would be an encouragement to us, would be a strength to us, would help us to see that God You can do something in our lives we can never do on our own. God, this next week we do pray that you’d help us to give our ambitions to You. We do pray that You help us notice the needs of those around us. We pray God that this next week you help us honor You with whatever seat we happen to be sitting in as we trust You, as we live in Your rest. We ask this in Your name, Jesus, Amen.
Next time we’ll look at the movie Pixel’s and talk about what to do when we’re under attack.