Today’s Reading: Luke 14:7-35
I am at NYC 2015 (Nazarene Youth Conference) in Louisville, Kentucky, this week with my family, our youth group, our District delegation and about 7000 Nazarene teenagers. We are having a blast! Twice a day, we walk over to the KFC Yum Center and go looking for our designated rows to sit in. “Is this seat taken?” “Can I sit by you?” “Will you save my seat?” These are all questions I have heard more than once this week.
Jesus noticed that all who had come to dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!
“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:7-11
Maybe this is where we developed the customary question, “Is this seat taken?” It has become a common courtesy to ask this question before sitting down in a seat. But our human nature is to think of ourselves first – to provide for our own needs, then care for others out of our excess. Jesus preaches a different kind of lifestyle – commitment to Jesus, thinking of God and how He would want us to care for others before our own concern for ourselves. Now, no one likes false humility either so I am guessing that Jesus is not encouraging us to pretend humility but to sincerely humble ourselves, thinking of others first.
Jesus addresses the question of who we are choosing to sit with as well. Do we think of who will make us look good or who will make us feel better about ourselves, or do we ask the question, “Who would you like for me to love on today, Jesus.”
Then he turned to the host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.” – Luke 14:12-14
Again, we cannot be focused on what we can gain from someone else but on what someone else can gain from God through us. God wants us responding to His Spirit and ministering to whoever He sends us to, not thinking of ourselves for own gain but seeing ourselves as tools God may want to use in any and every situation. But how often do we make excuses for our own selfishness? How often is our commitment to our own plans stronger than our commitment to God’s plans for us?
Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I now have a wife, so I can’t come.’
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’” – Luke 14:16-24
Commitment to God – fully devoted to Him. God calls us to count the cost before making the decision of whether or not to accept His invitation. It will require humility – it will require us to be more committed to Him than we are to our own plans. Today is a great day to renew our commitment. God, how would you like to use me today?
A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
“But don’t begin until you COUNT THE COST. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
“Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without GIVING UP EVERYTHING you own.
“Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” – Luke 14:25-33