Humility The Way to the Top
Luke 14:1 14
Everyone wants to make it to the top. Zig Ziglar, a good Baptist deacon, has written a powerful motivational book
entitled, I Will Meet You At The Top! His focus is on the material aspect of life, and what is required to be a
success, though he does touch on the spiritual. This raises a question, "Where is the top?" What will be the
criteria by which we measure success? For Jesus our Lord you never really reach the top in this life. The
success to which He pointed men is realized only in the life to come. This is the principle by which He himself
lived. He knew suffering in this life in order that He might gain the top, even exaltation by His heavenly Father.
Jesus brought this subject up when He confronted such open selfishness and pride in the home of a Pharisee.
He was invited into the home for a Sabbath luncheon following the worship time in the synagogue. It was
customary for such a luncheon to be a highlight of the week. It was not unusual to invite several guests into the
home, including visiting rabbis or teachers. The motivation for this invitation may not have been good. When
Jesus arrived in the home, He found a man who had dropsy. The Pharisees were watching Him like a hawk to
see what He would do. Would He heal the man on the Sabbath day? Jesus faced the issue by asking a couple of
questions they could not answer and healing the man. From what was said later, it is obvious that Jesus saw
their actions as an expression of selfishness and pride. Dropsy was attribut¬ed by some rabbis to immorality.
They may have felt superior to the sick man, and it is obvious that they were more concerned about their petty
little Sabbath rules than they were the sick man. Pride dries up all compassion from the human heart.
As soon as Jesus had healed the man, and it was time for the luncheon to begin, Jesus encountered another
expression of pride. The men began to jump over one another trying to secure one of the better seats. They
had no regard for their fellowman. Each person felt himself to be the most important person present. The
honored place at the table would be to the left of the host, and the next most honored would be to his right. They
scrambled to get into these seats. Jesus had some helpful words to say about this.
Then as Jesus surveyed who was present at the luncheon, He uncovered yet another expression of selfishness.
Present were relatives, friends, and rich neighbors. Every person present would in some way return the favor.
They had been invited for this very reason. Jesus took the occasion to give some very meaningful lessons about
humility. He sets forth clearly that humility leads to the top while pride and selfishness lead to humiliation.
I. HUMILITY IS THE WAY TO THE TOP BECAUSE OF WHAT IT DOES TO RELATIONSHIPS
The contrast between pride and humility is brought before us clearly in these words of Jesus.
Pride destroys relationships. It prevents true compassion for the needs of others. The Pharisees could be
callused about the obvious suffering of the man with dropsy because they were thinking only of themselves.
Getting ahead in life was all that mattered to them. If they could get to the top, they were prepared to push and
shove others out of their way. If you were going for the same thing as they were, it was just too bad. They would
run over you. They were determined to be at the top.
Jesus counseled that we follow the way of humility because it allows us to see the worth of others. This is the
reason that Jesus counsels us to take the lowest place when we are invited to a dinner. He is not talking about a
mock humility. He is not talking about the kind of humility that takes the lowest place all of the time knowing that
you deserve to be in the highest seat. Rather He is talking about the kind of perspective that allows you to see
the true worth of every other human being. Let's be honest about it; every person in this room is superior to me
in some way. The least educated of you know more about some things than I do. Some of you are superior to
me in strength physically. Many of you possess much more of this world's goods than I do. You have
experienced things that I have never experienced. Humility will allow me to see this. Humility will allow me to see
that you are as much created in the image of God as I am, and that you are just as beloved of God as I am.
Humility will allow me to appreciate the spiritual gifts that God has given to you. Humility allows me to become
aware of my weaknesses as well as my strengths.
Humility will also allow me to accept you as a person of worth. It will allow me to see that you are indeed worthy of
honor. It will move me to insist that you deserve to be in the place of honor instead of me.
Whenever you have this kind of humility, this attitude toward others, healthy relationships with others are
possible. The proud, arrogant, selfish person cannot build healthy relationships with others. The longer he lives,
the more isolated he will become. In time the only people he will have around him are those who hang on
because they hope to get something from him. If you are to ever make it to the top in this world, and in the world
to come, healthy relationships with others are necessary. Such humility will allow you to admit to others that you
are wrong, and to ask for their forgiveness when you have wronged them. If you are headed for the top, humility
is the only way up.
II. HUMILITY IS THE WAY TO THE TOP BECAUSE OF WHAT IT DOES TO SERVICE
Jesus was constantly emphasizing that service is essential for greatness, and humility is essential for service. He
sets this forth in the lesson in the home of the Pharisee. The host had done the normal thing in making up his
guest list. He had invited people who in some way would meet his needs. He had invited friends because he
enjoyed their company. He had invited rela¬tives because this was proper. It was the thing that was expected of
him by others. He had invited rich neighbors because he wanted to impress them. There would be times when
he might need their influence and help. Jesus does not forbid social entertainment in this admonition, but He
does point to something better. He says, "But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame,
the blind, and you will be blessed." Such a group would be excluded in that day from regular society. They were
not welcomed in the temple for worship. They were counted as though some plague had fallen upon them. Yet
Jesus causes us to consider what we could do to help them.
Pride makes what a man does for others selfish. Whatever is done is done with a view to what it will mean to me.
The world teaches us to appeal to this in motivating people to involvement. You demonstrate to them how this
will ultimately benefit themselves, and they will give or become involved. Jesus calls for a humility that makes it
possible for us to serve those who will never be able to recompense us in any way. We do it simply because the
Lord has told us to do it, and we do it because we consider those to whom we minister worthy of such ministry.
Your attitude will determine your service. The only service that is acceptable before God is that which is done in
humility. You will remember the long discussion that Jesus gave of this in the Sermon on the Mount. He reminded
us that if we give our gifts to be seen of men, that will be all that will happen. We will be seen of men. But if we
give our gifts, and perform our service humbly as unto the Lord, God will take note. Humility is the way to the top
because it makes our service acceptable to God.
III. HUMILITY IS THE WAY TO THE TOP BECAUSE IT RECEIVES DIVINE RECOGNITION
Jesus made one of His most profound statements at that dinner. He repeat¬ed the same statement on other
occasions. It contains a truth by which we must all live. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he
who humbles himself will be exalted." The first part of that statement can be illustrated in so many ways. The
man who sets out to make himself number one at the expense of others is destined for a fall. The wise man said
that pride goes before destruction. King Saul, the first king of Israel, is a sobering example of this. When his
heart was lifted up with pride, he made those decisions that cost him his kingdom. But what about the second
part of the paradox? Can it be demonstrated that humility precedes exaltation?
This statement is an eschatological statement. By this I mean that Jesus is not indicating that humility on
Tuesday brings exaltation on Friday. Rather He is pointing us to the divine order and the divine timing. In the
ultimate outcome of things, those who humble themselves will be At the Top. They will be enthroned, exalted!
This is the promise. The encouraging thing is that Jesus Christ staked everything on this principle. He was
indeed "meek and lowly in heart". He did not enter into a mad scramble for power and position. Rather He
humbly looked for the place of service and pursued the will of God even when it involved the cross. The
outcome? God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. This is the
reason that Paul admonishes, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." God enthrones the
humble in His own good time. The towel is followed by the throne. The crown comes after the cross.
The next statement about recompense emphasizes this eschatological aspect of the statement. Jesus
encourages the helping of the poor and handicapped because "although they cannot repay you, you will be
repaid at the resurrec¬tion of the righteous." The enrichment does not come in time, but in eterni¬ty. So God
has promised both an eternal enthronement and enrichment to those who walk humbly before God and with
men. This is truly the way to the top.
Since humility is obviously the way to the top, how do you find humility? It is rather simple. There was a time
when I found time to play golf regular¬ly. My playing partners were such that I could feel pretty good about my
golf game. Compared with my staff members and deacons that I played with, I was doing all right. But then I
would go home, turn on the television to watch a professional golf tournament. As I watched Tom Watson, Arnold
Palmer, and the others play the game, I was tempted to never play again. I had been comparing myself with the
wrong persons. If you want to cultivate humility in your life, begin to cultivate the fellowship of Jesus Christ, and
to compare yourself to Him. You feel better than others because you have been comparing yourself with the
wrong person. May God help us to find the genuine humility that will lead us to the top.