When Jesus noticed how the guests sought out the best seats at the table, he told them a parable. “When someone invites you to a wedding celebration, don’t take your seat in the place of honor. Someone more highly regarded than you could have been invited by your host. The host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give your seat to this other person.’ Embarrassed, you will take your seat in the least important place. Instead, when you receive an invitation, go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up.”
There’s a lot of risk in assuming you know your place in someone else’s hierarchy. We’ve probably all had the experience of finding out we’re not quite as important as we thought we were. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not uncommon (at least for me, which probably says something about my own struggle with humility). I also hope you’ve had the experience of being pleasantly surprised to find you rank more highly in someone’s estimation than you ever expected. That feels good, doesn’t it?
In the past few years, I’ve noticed any number of articles with the premise that the key to being happy is lowering your expectations. I’m all for helpful tips from the internet, but this one seems more than a little depressing. Should I lower my expectations for friends? Family? People I love? Experiences? I get the point, but it seems like a rather resigned way to search for happiness.
There is one area of life, though, where it seems to make sense to lower your expectations, and Jesus is pointing to it here. Lower your expectations about how people will react to you or receive you. It doesn’t mean lowering your expectations for your performance. It doesn’t mean lowering the amount of effort you put in. But you just can’t expect everyone to receive you as great (even if you are).
Resetting our assumptions about our own importance is a key step on the road to humility. It’s better to assign yourself the lower place than to have someone else do it for you!
For Pondering & Prayer
A big part of humility is embracing the idea that other people matter just as much as I do. How does your faith help to reinforce this idea?
Is there an area of your life where you need to lower your expectations today? What would that look like?