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 (Manna 67: The Bible)
Do Not Think Highly of Yourself
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Do Not Think Highly of Yourself


There are times in life when we meet with arrogant people whom, we feel, think too highly of themselves. It could be that bossy employee at work, or that “wise guy” in class. Perhaps they do deserve our respect for what they have accomplished and we are just envious of them. Or perhaps they really are self-deluded in assuming that, just because they hold themselves with high regard, others around them should do the same. Apparently, this was also a common sight two millennia ago, because Jesus warned of such people in one of His parables (Lk 14:7–11).


So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.”

(Lk 14:7–9)

According to Jewish custom, whenever there is a feast, the host would sit at the head of the table. The seats next to him were reserved for those guests he held with the highest honor or respect. This is evident even in the Old Testament, when Samuel first met young Saul and invited him to a feast. Samuel had him seated in the “place of honor among those who were invited” (1 Sam 9:22) after God revealed to Samuel that Saul would be Israel’s first king.

The above parable relates how an individual chose the best seat for himself, without waiting to be invited by the host. He made this decision, not because all other seats were taken, but because he assumed that he was the most respected among the guests. Naturally, he deserved the seat beside the host, as custom permits.

Although Jesus did not mention who the invitees to the feast were, interestingly, the “best place” in the parable draws reference to the “best places” (Mt 23:6, Mk 12:39, Lk 20:46) that the Pharisees and scribes would usually take when they attended these feasts. Being teachers of the law and for some, rulers of the synagogues, they commanded high standing in Jewish society. Thus, it was reasonable for them to assume that these seats of honor would be reserved for them whenever they were present, just as the parking space in the foyer of a building is reserved only for VIPs.

However, to Jesus, these notable men in society who loved “greetings in the marketplaces and to be called by men, Rabbi, Rabbi” (Mt 23:7) were contemptible, as they merely “[appeared] righteous to men, but inside… [were] full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Mt 23:28). Though the Pharisees thought highly of themselves, given the respect awarded to them by the people, in the eyes of Jesus, these “serpents, brood of vipers” deserved the “condemnation of hell” (Mt 23:33). In the eyes of men they may have been great, but in the eyes of Jesus they were the least of all. I would imagine that if Jesus ever hosted a feast, he would have followed the example of the host in the parable to usher them away from the best places because He did not think highly of them at all.

How We Might Think

Similar to the character in the parable, the Pharisee’s main flaw was their pre-conceived notion that the host would honor them, just because they were deemed honorable by the society. Today, this wrong thinking may also be present in some of us. When we congregate in church, do we consider ourselves as better than our brethren, and hence more deserving of honor in God’s eyes?

We are aware that we should treat each other equally as children of God. However, the danger comes when contrasting principles of the world infiltrate our minds. Secular organizations esteem high-performing, result-oriented employees, and high profile assignments are more sought after than “behind the scenes” tasks, much like the singer who performs on stage and the songwriter who remains hidden.

Similarly, the church has a variety of duties, which we have to fulfill. However, if we are not careful, we may bring worldly concepts into the church. For instance, we may feel we are better than our brother, and when a church duty is assigned to him and not to us, we become upset. We may think that we can undertake and accomplish a task better than others. We may believe that God will favor us more if we carry out the more prominent work in church, for example delivering sermons, in contrast with duties, deemed less honorable in societal standards, such as cleaning and maintenance. It is not wrong to aspire to be honored by God, but it is wrong when we assume that God honors man the same way as the world does.

How We Ought to Think

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

(Rom 12:2)

When we come to the house of God, we have to understand that God perceives things differently from the people of the world. Quite often, we fall into the trap of thinking highly of ourselves because our focus is always on what we think, shaped by our interactions with society, and not on what God thinks. How should we renew our minds so we can conform to God’s will instead?

With Humility

But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, 'Friend, go up higher.' Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.

(Lk 14:10)

Jesus introduces the attitude that we ought to have when invited to the feast. Instead of presuming our honorable status and taking the best seats at the table, we should go to the lowest places. Our own perspective or even that of other guests towards ourselves as having the least honor should not influence us. Deciding on who is more honorable is the prerogative of the master. We must leave this decision to God and remain humble, no matter how much we have done for Him.

With Sobriety

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.

(Rom 12:3)

When we serve God, we have to remember that our talents and abilities are God-given, according to His purpose. Also, we should never have the misconception that certain aspects of divine work are more honorable than others, for God does not view them the same way as the world does. In our service to God, all duties are to be treated with equal importance and discharged with humility.

Without Expecting a Reward

So likewise, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say “We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.”

(Lk 17:10)

Once our work is done, we must not think highly of ourselves and expect a reward in return. As we serve Him, we should not focus on the reward of being esteemed and honored by Him. If we do so, we may unknowingly become boastful. Instead, apply the teaching of our Lord Jesus and remind ourselves: “We are unprofitable servants. We have only done our duty. Let our reward be to give all glory and honor to Him alone.”

From Humbled To Exalted

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.

(Phil 2:5–9)

Jesus came as God in the flesh and, this alone, according to worldly standards warranted the right to be exalted by man. Yet Jesus did not choose to be tainted by these principles and consider Himself more honorable than any other man. Rather, He remained humble in His ministry until He breathed His last. Jesus knew clearly that the will of the Father went contrary to the ways of the world. As a result of His humility and submissiveness, the Father exalted Him to the most honorable place—the right hand of God.

Jesus has set the standard for us; He has shown us the need to remain humble. We must take heed that we don’t confuse the principles of the world with how God wants us to view ourselves. Let us renew our minds and “humble (ourselves) under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt us in due time” (1 Pet 5:5–6).

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

(Lk 14:11)

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Author: cleftforme