Hospitality and humility. 14:1-14
Our passage for study focuses on a churchman's dinner party and teaches that religious status-seekers will have no part in the kingdom of God. The passage is made up of a healing, v1-6, followed by two extended proverbs, v7-11, 12-14. The setting is a dinner provided for a visiting preacher by the local minister. It looks very much like a setup. The sick man is placed before Jesus while the religious crew carefully watch to see if Jesus will break the law and heal on the Sabbath.
v1-6. The dinner was at the home of an important Pharisee who was a member of the Sanhedrin. The sick person brought before Jesus was most likely a plant. He had dropsy, an accumulation of fluid in the body which, at the time, was believed to be a venereal disease (a false association). Jesus supports the "correctness" of his healing on the Sabbath with a typically rabbinic argument. First, he asks (even answers their thoughts) whether it is permitted, under the law, to heal on the Sabbath - the word can also take the sense to serve, even to do good. The theologians present would obviously like to say "no", on the basis of their tradition, but the Old Testament scriptures are not so black and white on the issue. Jesus then asks, if it is right to pull an "ass or an ox" (RSV is better than NIV "a son or an ox") out of a well on the Sabbath, is it not also right to heal a sick person on the Sabbath? The lawyers and Pharisees present were simply unable to make a decent argument in response, so they didn't answer. So again, Jesus demonstrates an understanding of the law which puts the Scribes and Pharisees to shame. For Jesus the law is summed up in love toward a neighbor, a love full of mercy and compassion.
v7-11. In this little parable about social climbing, Jesus exposes the lost state of the churchmen invited to the dinner. Jesus notes that they seek the approval of man rather than God, but then they can't even get that right. Better to take the lower seat and be called up higher, than the higher seat and be moved down lower. When it comes to working a crowd, the pretense of false humility gains more brownie-points than a push and shove move. Jesus concludes in v11 with a punch-line. Eternal significance is gained, not in the approval of men, but in the approval of God. Those who make themselves insignificant in the sight of God will find themselves in possession of eternal significance, and of course, visa-versa.
v12-14. Jesus goes on to develop the judgement theme evident in v11. If these self-righteous "churchies" are to survive the day of judgement and "be raised at the resurrection of the righteous", they are going to have to handle the issue of hospitality a bit better than they have done so far.
It's easy to invite a friend to dinner, but not so easy to invite an outcast like the "unclean" man with "dropsy." Since such a person can't repay the kindness, God will repay it. Generous hospitality toward the stranger fulfills the law and secures a person's righteous standing in the sight of God. Yet, where can we find such a generous person? These "churchies" certainly don't fit the bill. Obviously, they are like everyone else, sinners who face judgement. The churchmen had sought to demonstrate that Jesus didn't keep the law, now find themselves condemned. In typical fashion, Jesus has used the law to expose sin. Hopefully some of the guests got the message and turned to God for mercy.
Who am I?
He was the most unlikely person to be elected class captain. He never said a word and could hardly ever look you in the face. But then, we were teenage high school students, out of control and in total rebellion mode. Why support the system by electing the typical self-confident "leader of man". We wanted someone who would never push us around.
Self-esteem is a quality difficult to measure. With it we are self-controlled, self-contained, self-assured.... without it, well! There are many elements that can contribute to a sense of low self-esteem. Our family background can damage us, or the school playground can destroy us. With our self-worth eroded, we then lose confidence and are inevitably immobilized.
Religion too can be a destructive element in our lives. If we believe that our worth in the sight of God is somehow related to religious performance, we soon become worthless, because our performance is always second rate. We are then forced to hide our worthlessness with a created self-worth - a self-righteous pharisaism.
In our passage for study, Jesus exposes the true condition of some supposedly "godly" church attenders. They believed their piety not only gained them the best seat in the house, it secured their eternal seat at the heavenly feast. Too much religion had blinded them to their condition of loss. In claiming their own worth they found themselves worthless before God. Yet, they could still claim eternal worth, and this just for the asking.
"Humble we must be, if to heaven we go; High is the roof there, but the gate is low", George Herbert.
1. Is it "lawful" to do good on the Sabbath?
2. Why "take the lowest place"? v7-11.
3. Discuss the danger of "religiosity" as a mechanism to hide low self esteem.
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