Where you sit at a wedding dinner can be a learning experience. It can expose your ego — and it can speak volumes about how your host perceives you.
Typically, a host or hostess at an American wedding dinner will seat friends together or choose people to sit together who share common interests, affiliations, or acquaintances to facilitate positive interaction and their enjoyment. Guests of honor will be seated at or near the head table.
Jesus once attended the dinner of a member of the Jewish Council. “When he noticed that all who came to the dinner were trying to sit near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: ‘If you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t always head for the best seat. For if someone more respected than you shows up, the host will bring him over to where you are sitting and say, ‘Let this man sit here instead.’ And you, embarrassed, will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! Do this instead – start at the foot; and when your host sees you he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place than this for you!’ Thus you will be honored in front of all the other guests.” (Luke 14:8-10) Jesus continued,” For everyone who tries to honor himself shall be humbled; and he who humbles himself shall be honored.” (Luke 14: 11)
Jesus’ advice remains an example of common sense and good wedding etiquette today. But I doubt that Jesus was talking about wedding etiquette when Jesus shared His advice. No, I believe what He probably was talking about is who is respected in God’s Kingdom.
Imagine the irony of having the Son of God attend a dinner with the religious leaders of His day only to have Him watch as they jockeyed for positions of honor at the dinner table.
In the parable Jesus tells them, Jesus refers to seat selection at a wedding feast. In many other places in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as “the bridegroom.” It isn’t much of a leap to conclude that in His parable, Jesus – as bridegroom – would have the power to decide who should be honored at the wedding dinner and who should not. And it is clear that it is people who are humble and unassuming who are respected by Jesus, as distinguished from people who are self-righteous and full of themselves.
This was driven-home by what Jesus said next: “Then he turned to His host. ‘When you put on a dinner,’ he said, ‘don’t invite friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors! For they will return the invitation. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the godly, God will reward you for inviting those who can’t repay you.” (Luke 14:12-14)
I believe Jesus was telling the Pharisees that their values were messed up, and that the Pharisees needed to shift their efforts to helping those who could do nothing for them in return. I also believe that Jesus was saying that His message is directed to less fortunates and those who are often overlooked by society.
Over 2,000 years later, Jesus’ parable still resonates to me with clarity and truth. It is a recurring theme told for our well-being that urges us to be humble, to serve those in need, and to pay particular attention to those who are disadvantaged and cannot give us anything in return for our help. It is a story that warns that the things that elevate us to worldly importance and honor at this life’s wedding table most probably will subrogate us to positions of unimportance and dishonor at the next.
Without the respect of Jesus, worldly honor is no honor at all.
Photo: Guest Table at Daughter and Son-in-Law’s Wedding