The Walk of Shame
Luke 14:11 Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
A friend and I were recently discussing an individual whom we find to be quite prideful. The maddening thing, in our estimation, is that this person remains completely blind to that pride. We would never act like that. We pride ourselves on our humility. We did not literally say this, but we could have.
It suddenly dawned on both of us that we were being quite prideful in our judgment. It is a difficult thing to recognize another’s pride without revealing our own. Pride is so ugly in others, yet in recognizing the defects of others, we so often exalt ourselves. This is the essence of arrogance: I am better than you.
This is the situation Jesus witnessed and commented on in today’s passage. Dining at the home of one of the Pharisees, he saw that some guests assumed places of honor, exalting themselves above others. This bothered him, so He called them out, humbling the very ones who had sought to exalt themselves.
Jesus told the story of a wedding feast where a guest assumed a high seat only to be demoted to a low seat in front of all. Jesus told his listeners that they should always choose humility, lest they be forced to take the walk of shame. He taught that those who choose humility first, will, in the end, be exalted. Those who choose the instant gratification of self-exaltation, will be humbled before all.
This was never more apparent to me than when I went to treatment. I went from being an Emergency Room physician one day to being an inpatient at an inner-city drug treatment facility the next. I was suddenly surrounded by bad people. Even in my addiction, I had thought quite highly of myself as I was still an ER physician. Then, that too was stripped away and I was nothing more than another addict in the program.
This was brutal for my ego but it was exactly what I needed. It was the incidentally, almost the exact scenario which Christ described. I had exalted myself and in my arrogance, I followed only what I wanted. I chose the instant gratification of pursuing Scott above all and I paid the consequences in my own walk of shame.
Jesus did not promise that we would all have such a dramatic fall from grace, but He did teach that self-exaltation always has consequences. When I elevate myself above others, feeling entitled because I am better, I become so focused on self, that I cannot focus on God. Self-focus is always destructive, even if it is only so because it distracts me from God. Just as I cannot focus on God and me at the same time, I cannot exalt God and self simultaneously.
Jesus said that as a policy, I should always choose humility. Even now, I need to continually choose to put God and others ahead of me. In doing so, I turn my focus to God. Only in humility, can I love God and neighbor as Jesus commanded.