When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour,
for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host
who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this person your seat.”
Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.
Why would anyone think they deserved the best seat of all? Why indeed!
In the last half of the twentieth century the defining philosophy in the
“developed” world was a set of questions, a search for significance: Why am I
here? Am I important? Do I matter? In the end it led to many things – antiwar
protests, the removal of prayer from schools, the legalization of abortion, even to
the cover of Time magazine questioning, “Is God dead?”
It also gave birth to the culture which prevails today, but now the defining
philosophy is not a question. Humans have determined that all the questions
have been answered, and we are the answer. What began as a set of questions
regarding “I” has ended with the most unsurprising answer: for each person, “I”
am the answer to every question.
This presents a problem, as every “I” has their own answer to every question, and
we don’t all agree. So the defining philosophy is not a question but a quest: a
mission to be accomplished, an extreme hunger that must be satisfied.
This quest drives the majority of life: it spawned MySpace, Facebook, Twitter,
Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc.; it drives politicians & nations, movie &
television stars, small businesses & international corporations, sports figures,
even chefs. Everyone is fighting to be recognized. And in that drive for
recognition the quest for significance has been abandoned: it’s not about making
a real difference, but simply being recognized, being known, being followed, being
liked. Ridiculous claims are made, and statements that are outlandishly false, just
to be more “noticeable” than others – to stick out, to rise above the screaming
noise of everyone else trying to be noticed.
The problem is that this hunger is insatiable: it is incapable of being satisfied.
When one person succeeds in rising a bit above the noise, a hundred others
quickly follow. The striving, the jockeying for position, the elbowing and the
trampling continue, and the only real results are that (1) the volume of noise just
gets louder and louder, and (2) truth is sacrificed on the altar of personal gain.
It’s the same old story – really, really old story. Satan was created as perhaps the
highest of angels, but he had an insatiable hunger for glory. It was his downfall,
and now he is the eternally condemned enemy of God, awaiting final punishment.
Jesus instructs us not to seek the recognition of men, because true recognition
comes from the Father. “But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that
when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then
you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests.” Then He makes it
perfectly clear: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those
who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:10-11)
You were created by God. You are unique. Your value was placed in you by your
heavenly Father, and nothing you do or say can change it. You can risk taking the
lower place, because God knows your true worth. You can risk loving one another
as brothers and sisters; you can risk showing hospitality to strangers; you can risk
remembering those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and
those who are ill-treated as if you yourselves were suffering – because they have
value, too. (Hebrews 13:1-3) In demonstrating to them they are valuable, you are
being Jesus to them.
Your value doesn’t reside in good-looking or plain you are, how many followers
you have, how tall or short, strong or weak, excellent speaker or stutterer. It
doesn’t matter how dirty you are, how battered and scratched you are. You are
gold to the Lord, and His heart is to wash you clean and purify you so that the
gold can shine with His image.
And you will live with Him forever in a heavenly place of honour.
Word of God: speak!
Non nobis Domine+
by Fr. Dana Jackson