Scripture: St. Luke 14: 7-11
From Matthew Henry's Commentary (c. 1700).
"Even in the common actions of life, Christ marks what we do, not only in our religious assemblies, but at our tables."
LUKE CHAP. XIV.
In this chapter we have, I. The cure which our Lord Jesus wrought upon a man that had the dropsy, on the sabbath day, and his justifying himself therein against those who were offended at his doing it on that day, ver. 1-6. II. A lesson of humility gives to those who were ambitious of the highest rooms, ver. 7-11. III. A lesson of charity to those who feasted the rich, and did not feed the poor, ver. 12-14. IV. The success of the gospel not foretold in the parable of the guests invited to a feast, signifying the rejection of the Jews and all others that set their hearts upon this world, and the entertainment of the Gentiles and all others that come to be filled with Christ, ver. 15-24. V. The great law of discipleship laid down, with a caution to all that will be Christ's disciples to undertake it deliberately and with consideration, and particularly to ministers, to retain their savour, ver. 25-35.
7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. 12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. 13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: 14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
Our Lord Jesus here sets us an example of profitable edifying discourse at our tables, when we are in company with our friends. We find that when he had none but his disciples, who were his own family, with him at his table, his discourse with them was good, and to the use of edifying; and not only so, but when he was in company with strangers, nay, with enemies that watched him, he took occasion to reprove what he saw amiss in them, and to instruct them. Though the wicked were before him, he did not keep silence from good (as David did, Ps. xxxix. 1, 2), for, notwithstanding the provocation given him, he had not his heart hot within him, nor was his spirit stirred. We must not only not allow any corrupt communication at our tables, such as that of the hypocritical mockers at feasts, but we must go beyond common harmless talk, and should take occasion from God's goodness to us at our tables to speak well of him, and learn to spiritualize common things. The lips of the righteous should then feed many. Our Lord Jesus was among persons of quality, yet, as one that had not respect of persons,
I. He takes occasion to reprove the guests for striving to sit uppermost, and thence gives us a lesson of humility.
1. He observed how these lawyers and Pharisees affected the highest seats, towards the head-end of the table, v. 7. He had charged that sort of men with this in general, ch. xi. 43. Here he brings home the charge to particular persons; for Christ will give every man his own. He marked how they chose out the chief rooms; every man, as he came in, got as near the best seat as he could. Note, Even in the common actions of life, Christ's eye is upon us, and he marks what we do, not only in our religious assemblies, but at our tables, and makes remarks upon it.
2. He observed how those who were thus aspiring often exposed themselves, and came off with a slur; whereas, those who were modest, and seated themselves in the lowest seats, often gained respect by it. (1.) Those who, when they come in, assume the highest seats, may perhaps be degraded, and forced to come down to give place to one more honourable, v. 8, 9. Note, It ought to check our high thoughts of ourselves to think how many there are that are more honourable than we, not only in respect of worldly dignities, but of personal merits and accomplishments. Instead of being proud that so many give place to us, it should be humbling to us that there are so many that we must give place to. The master of the feast will marshal his guests, and will not see the more honourable kept out of the seat that is his due, and therefore will make bold to take him lower that usurped it; Give this man place; and this will be a disgrace before all the company to him that would be thought more deserving than he really was. Note, Pride will have shame, and will at last have a fall. (2.) Those who, when they come in, content themselves with the lowest seats, are likely to be preferred (v. 10): "Go, and seat thyself in the lowest room, as taking it for granted that thy friend, who invited thee, has guests to come that are of better rank and quality than thou are; but perhaps it may not prove so, and then it will be said to thee, Friend, go up higher. The master of the feast will be so just to thee as not to keep thee at the lower end of the table because thou wert so modest as to seat thyself there." Note, The way to rise high is to begin low, and this recommends a man to those about him: "Thou shalt have honour and respect before those that sit with thee. They will see thee to be an honourable man, beyond what at first they thought; and honour appears the brighter for shining out of obscurity. They will likewise see thee to be a humble man, which is the greatest honour of all. Our Saviour here refers to that advice of Solomon (Prov. xxv. 6, 7), Stand not in the place of great men, for better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither, than that thou shouldest be put lower." And Dr. Lightfoot quotes a parable out of one of the rabbin somewhat like this. "Three men," said he, "were bidden to a feast; one sat highest, For, said he, I am a prince; the other next, For, said he, I am a wise man; the other lowest, For, said he, I am a humble man. The king seated the humble man highest, and put the prince lowest."
3. He applied this generally, and would have us all learn not to mind high things, but to content ourselves with mean things, as for other reasons, so for this, because pride and ambition are disgraceful before men: for whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; but humility and self-denial are really honourable: he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, v. 11. We see in other instances that a man's pride will bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit, and before honour is humility.
II. He takes occasion to reprove the master of the feast for inviting so many rich people, who had wherewithal to dine very well at home, when he should rather have invited the poor, or, which was all one, have sent portions to them for whom nothing was prepared, and who could not afford themselves a good meal's meat. See Neh. viii. 10. Our Saviour here teaches us that the using of what we have in works of charity is better, and will turn to a better account, than using it in works of generosity and in magnificent house-keeping.
1. "Covet not to treat the rich; invite not thy friends, and brethren, and neighbours, that are rich," v. 12. This does not prohibit the entertaining of such; there may be occasion for it, for the cultivating of friendship among relations and neighbours. But, (1.) "Do not make a common custom of it; spend as little as thou canst that way, that thou mayest not disable thyself to lay out in a much better way, in almsgiving. Thou wilt find it very expensive and troublesome; one feast for the rich will make a great many meals for the poor." Solomon saith, He that giveth to the rich shall surely come to want, Prov. xxii. 16. "Give" (saith Pliny, Epist.) "to thy friends, but let it be to thy poor friends, not to those that need thee not." (2.) "Be not proud of it." Many make feasts only to make a show, as Ahasuerus did (Esth. i. 3, 4), and it is no reputation to them, they think, if they have not persons of quality to dine with them, and thus rob their families, to please their fancies. (3.) "Aim not at being paid again in your own coin." This is that which our Saviour blames in making such entertainments: "You commonly do it in hopes that you will be invited by them, and so a recompence will be made you; you will be gratified with such dainties and varieties as you treat your friends with, and this will feed your sensuality and luxury, and you will be no real gainer at last."
2. "Be forward to relieve the poor (v. 13, 14): When thou makest a feast, instead of furnishing thyself with what is rare and nice, get thy table spread with a competency of plain and wholesome meat, which will not be so costly, and invite the poor and maimed, such as have nothing to live upon, nor are able to work for their living. These are objects of charity; they want necessaries; furnish them, and they will recompense thee with their prayers; they will commend thy provisions, which the rich, it may be, will despise. They will go away, and thank God for thee, when the rich will go away and reproach thee. Say not that thou art a loser, because they cannot recompense thee, thou art so much out of pocket; no, it is so much set out to the best interest, on the best security, for thou shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." There will be a resurrection of the just, a future state of the just. There is a state of happiness reserved for them in the other world; and we may be sure that the charitable will be remembered in the resurrection of the just, for alms are righteousness. Works of charity perhaps may not be rewarded in this world, for the things of this world are not the best things, and therefore God does not pay the best men in those things; but they shall in no wise lose their reward; they shall be recompensed in the resurrection. It will be found that the longest voyages make the richest returns, and that the charitable will be no losers, but unspeakable gainers, by having their recompense adjourned till the resurrection.
See Also: Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost
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