Sermon on Luke 14:1, 7–14, August 29 & September 1, 2019
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gets to be a little like Miss Manners or Emily Post. He was expanding on one of the proverbs. He pictures a wedding banquet, and the embarrassment of a person choosing one of the seats reserved for an honored guest and then being told to move down. “Someone more important than you has come.” Instead, he says, “Sit at one of the lowest seats. Then the host will tell you to move up.” It’s about good manners. It’s about avoiding embarrassment. But the roots of it all are in pride and humility.
I. Empty, Sinful Pride.
- Pride and humility are very strange things. In the Catechism, Luther taught the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” Meaning: “We should fear, love and trust in God above all things?” That includes self. What is pride but loving self above all things. Long ago, some Christian teacher put together the list of seven deadly sins, and guess what was first? Pride, because all the other sins come out of it. Adam and Eve’s sin was disobedience, but wasn’t it also pride? When they reached for the apple, weren’t they thinking, “We know better than God does. Why would he forbid such a small thing?” King Saul’s kingdom fell apart because of his pride. “God said destroy the Amalekite city, but I think I’ll keep some of the best things I find.” Samuel said to him, “Rebellion is the same as the sin of witchcraft, and arrogance is like having useless idols or consulting household gods. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you as king” (1 Samuel 15:23).
- Look at the world around us. Pride isn’t regarded as a deadly sin, but it always seems to be a good thing, until you have to deal with someone else’s pride. Then your pride is good and their pride is bad. That’s the world of politics, isn’t it? People commit a form of adultery, and then march in a parade that celebrates it. People commit murder, and they are told to celebrate it. “Shout it out.”
- Pride, sinful pride, is not just out there in the world. It’s in each one of us. When we don’t listen to others anymore it’s because sinful pride is guiding us. When we think “I’ve served enough. Let someone else slug through this!” or “It’s my time to sit back. I’ve done enough.” Sometimes a person may have served faithfully and is ready to step aside. Sometimes God sets a task before us and we just don’t want to do it. That’s pride. In 1 Corinthians 13 St. Paul wrote: “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love does not envy. It does not brag. It is not arrogant. 5 It does not behave indecently. It is not selfish. It is not irritable. It does not keep a record of wrongs. 6 It does not rejoice over unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.” Pride is impatient. Pride is cruel. Pride is no different than envy. Pride brags. Pride is selfish. Pride is irritable. Pride keeps a very long list of wrongs. Pride rejoices in the evil of others, because it makes us feel better. We don’t do those things. Pride ignores any bad truth about itself. Pride destroys relationships of all kinds, supervisors and employees, coworkers at work, parents with kids at home. Husbands and wives in a marriage. When you say or think “I don’t need to listen to you because I know better” that comes from pride. Another proverb says “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit precedes a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). An attitude that disregards others and rejects God’s calls to love and service is empty, sinful pride.
II. Solid, Holy Pride
- In lists of Christian virtues, we see humility (Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:12, 1 Peter 3:8). We see humility in the life of Jesus. We see it in the way he dealt with his disciples—when they had some stupid question, or failed some spiritual test, he would keep teaching them, sometimes shaking his head and saying, “You of little faith!” (Matthew 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8, Luke 12:28) As he walked from place to place, he stopped and talked to the sick, the lepers, the outcasts. He saw needs and he helped. He wasn’t “too good” to bother with those people. He said, “That is why I have come” (Mark 1:38).
- I do think there is such a thing a holy pride. St. Paul wrote about it many times in his letters. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (2 Corinthians 10:17). “Far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14). “Boasting,” that is, pride, can’t be on the basis of what we’ve done or what we have. That’s why Paul sometimes says “What happens to boasting then? It has been eliminated” (Romans 3:27, see also Ephesians 2:9). In our lives we have nothing to boast about, nothing to be proud about, except that God has reached out to you and me. He has touched us with his means of grace, washed us in the water of baptism and put his name on us, instructed us in his Word, the law to guide us, the gospel to empower us. He receives us as guests at his table and connects his forgiveness to us in ways we can see, feel and taste. He has given us the right to become children of God (John 1:12). Everything good that we have, everything good that we are, everything good that we do is because God has showered us with his grace (John 1:16). Just as sin is a great equalizer (Romans 3:23), God’s grace is a great equalizer (Romans 3:24).
- Pride is an overestimation of your value or worth. God’s grace gives you a new value. You are counted as a child of God because the blood of Jesus was poured out for you to cleanse you and make you his own (1 John 1:7). What are you worth? You are worth the blood of the Son of God, because that is what was given for you. That is what you are worth on your worst day when you feel worthless. That is also what you are worth on your best day when you feel on top of the world because of some success. The success means little to God. He already considers you his child because of the price he paid for you. So that gives you a new value. A new sense of worth. A new “holy pride.” You’re not a nobody. Jesus is your Savior. He came to rescue you.
- And that should give you a different view of everyone around you. Your fellow Christians also have that same value. The other church member or family member who may irritate you or disappoint you—he or she is a blood-bought child of God, too. That person also is valuable to God. And the non-Christian, the unbeliever, Christ has given them value, too. Doesn’t John 3:16 say “God so loved the world”? and doesn’t St. Paul say, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself”? (2 Corinthians 5:19). The price has been paid for them, even though they don’t see or know their value. Jesus has opened the door for them, even though they haven’t found it. Even those who fight for the cause of evil, who shout because of their pride, he stands at their door and knocks, too (Revelation 3:20). “Light has come into the world, yet people loved darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). People don’t know the light that Christ is and that Christ brings. That’s the true motivation for missions and outreach—to lift people up and show them their true value in Christ. How dare you or I let our pride blind us. If God humbles himself by reaching out to us, we have no right to be proud—except being proud and joyful in God and his gifts that are ours through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Luke 14:1, 7–14 (EHV)
One Sabbath day, when Jesus went into the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat bread, they were watching him closely. … 7When he noticed how they were selecting the places of honor, he told the invited guests a parable. 8“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline in the place of honor, or perhaps someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him. 9The one who invited both of you may come and tell you, ‘Give this man your place.’ Then you will begin, with shame, to take the lowest place. 10“But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will tell you, ‘Friend, move up to a higher place.’ Then you will have honor in the presence of all who are reclining at the table with you. 11“Yes, everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” 12He also said to the one who had invited him, “When you make a dinner or a supper, do not invite your friends, or your brothers, or your relatives, or rich neighbors, so that perhaps they may also return the favor and pay you back. 13“But when you make a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. Certainly, you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous.”
Luke 14.1, 7–14.ser.docx August 29, 2019