Have you ever arrived at a door at the same time as someone else and the two of you both try to allow the other to go through first? It can be an amusing and uncomfortable experience as no one wants to be first. If you stop and think about it there is something very profound in this often quickly forgotten interaction. In this week's Gospel Jesus clarifies this profound truth.
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 had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:1, 7-14
Who is most important? Jesus emphasizes internal motivation as the key to those who are most honored and distinguished in God's kingdom. It is those who do not seek the honored place. In fact, Jesus extends His teaching about seeking honor for ourselves to offering the honored place to the least when we are having "a banquet". In essence, He is telling the Pharisees and their guests that they should always humble themselves.
All behaviors are rooted in the internal motivation of the person. It is relatively easy to open a door for another. There are also opportunities to honor the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. But Jesus challenges us to do so with the right internal motivation, a humble heart. Where does that humility come from? It comes from a heart totally surrendered to God and His purposes.
Jesus opens the door of understanding as to how we are to behave towards one another. Our motivation must be driven by our desire for God's Kingdom, for communion with Him. When we live for Him, our response should always be to choose others first. Here is some motivation for you to do so; imagine Jesus holding the door of heaven open and saying, "After You!"