OK, so we have to talk about it. What does Jesus mean when he says, “But when you are invited, go and sit down at 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 the table with you”?
Much of the struggle that is the Christian life is that of motivations. Do I act in order to be saved or because I am saved? Do I share out of generosity or expecting riches poured back in return? And here, do I take the lowest place out of humility or so that in the end everyone can see how great I am?
Oh, and how guilty am I supposed to feel when my motivation moves from the “acceptable” category to “you’ve got to be kidding me!”
It almost makes you wish Jesus wouldn’t have made any promises, rather he just laid down moral standards and been done with it. But he didn’t, and so we have to deal with the promises and how they change our motivations.
As Keith said in our lectionary group this week, as soon as the blessing becomes your motivation, you’ve lost humility. He is right. The promise of blessing comes only after one makes the decision to take the lowest seat, and that choice, when pure and holy, comes only from a place of humility. Not because somebody better than me might arrive. Not so that I can get moved up and look great in front of everybody. But because the poor, sick, lame, widowed, and orphaned deserve that spot at the head of the table. Because Jesus is all about turning the painfully upside-down social structure right-side up.
And quite honestly, when you take the lowest seat, you will be blessed whether or not you get moved up. It is just how it works. When we live withing the boundaries of the Kingdom, blessings pour out.