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The Pharisees Play Musical Chairs

They're listening to the wrong song.

Luke 14:7-11 (ESV)

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I often laugh at the way dogs like to smell each other’s rear ends. I wonder what kind of strange social dynamic lies at the root of this practice.

But I also wonder if we do things that would look just as ridiculous to a non-human. Is one logo on a golf shirt more impressive than another? Is there a car that turns your head? What makes something or somebody “cool”? I laugh at how the Pharisees fret over who’s in which seat. Then I look in the mirror and wonder.

Jesus doesn’t just bust on how the Pharisees try to be “alpha,” He busts on the whole idea of wanting to be alpha. They’re nuts. We’re all just hell-bait but for the love of God and His saving grace. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

And it’s not the seating system that’s the problem.

And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” – Mark 14:62 (ESV)

The Pharisees act like they’re in a pride competition.

Pride takes many forms. It’s not just the kind you normally see in university professors – thinking they’re better than everyone else. It’s also Christians taking pride in their church – thinking they’re holier than everyone else.

Even fans of some sports teams look down on others, and I’m not even talking about the players on those teams; it’s the fans. Is that nuts or what?

But make no mistake, this is the human condition. We are conditioned to be competitive, and that naturally leads to pride. Life is a competition and success means out-competing everyone else. You can’t avoid it; society is structured that way. When you get a promotion, someone else has to get passed over.

Ask the Lord to search your heart and show you where pride lurks. You may find it in places you never imagined.

No one is exempt.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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