Shameful Pride

Luke 14: 1,7-11
Phil 1: 18b-26 / Psa 111

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
(Luke 14:11)

To the “small” God’s favors will fall.
Because the proud don’t heed His call.
Those who seek to be truly meek
In God’s eyes are greatest of all!

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing Him carefully… He told a parable to those who were invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table, and said to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:1,7-11)

Reflection

If pride is regarded as the most subtle of sins that most of us fall into, humility must be the most difficult virtue that we can aspire for or hope to acquire. The moment we start to feel humble, that is the time we slip into pride. Humility then must be a grace that one does not strive to acquire. Rather, it is a gift that God gives to those He will use for an important mission or purpose. Abraham was a very humble man whom God exalted and made the father of millions. (Gen 15:5). God appointed Moses to lead His Chosen People, but when God punished Miriam and Aaron for defying him, he pleaded for God’s mercy on their behalf (Num 12:1-13). King David was also highly favored, because even though he was unjustly persecuted by King Saul, he did not raise his hand against the king when the opportunity presented itself, because to him King Saul was “the Lord’s anointed” (1 Sam 26:8-12).

Of course we all know that the greatest man who ever lived was also the humblest, and we are referring to no other than our Lord Jesus Christ, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. . . . He humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:6-11).

There are many passages in Scripture that teach us about the tension between pride and humility. Proverbs 18:12 says, “Pride goes before a fall, but humility comes before honor.” Another passage in the same book cites, “Man’s pride causes his humiliation, but he who is humble of spirit obtains honor.” (Prov.29:23) St. Paul warned against being prideful: “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Rom.12:3) Jesus Himself said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Mat.18:4).

As Christians we believe that everything we have, including our talents and abilities, come from God. We should only be so grateful for all our blessings! In fact it is by His grace that we are saved, in spite of our sinfulness, for which we should only feel shame, and no cause to be proud. For this reason we should never judge anyone for their faults or weaknesses. And none of us can claim any seat of honor in God’s kingdom. We can only stand and wait.

Lord Jesus, we thank You for the beautiful lesson on humility that You have imparted to us in today’s Gospel. May we be reminded always by the Holy Spirit to suppress our desires to be first, to be honored, to be served or to claim credit, for these desires only lead us to the sin of pride. Please remind us instead to give our best for the sake of others, and to give credit, honor and glory to You alone, and the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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