The Place to Choose
James Smith, 1865
"But when you are invited — take the lowest place." Luke 14:10
PRIDE is peculiarly offensive to God. He will not allow it in His presence! He cannot smile upon the person who indulges it. It was exceedingly offensive to Jesus — the meek and humble Jesus. It was the exact contrast of Himself. He testified against it in His life. He reproved it with His tongue. When He saw His fellow countrymen, indulging in this sin at a feast, choosing the best and most prominent places — He put forth a parable to reprove them, and instruct His disciples. He did not say keep away from them exactly, or refuse all invitations to festivity; but when you do go — manifest humility — take the lowest place — show a humble disposition — because I command you. Leave your reputation to others. "He who humbles himself — shall be exalted."
It is not so much the place, as the spirit which prompts us to take it! For a man may take the lowest place — with the proudest heart! But in general, the state of the heart — manifests itself by the conduct. The humble will take the lowest place. The humble will go and stand by the publican, not proudly go up before the veil with the Pharisee. Jesus here gives us,
A DIRECTION."But when you are invited — take the lowest place." That is, be humble, and appear humble. Have low views of yourselves. Keep your own sinfulness, misery, and deservings — before your eyes. Never forget your sinful origin, your former character, your deserved doom; and that all the difference between you and the vilest — must be ascribed to free and sovereign grace. "For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have — that you did not receive? And if you did receive it — why do you boast as though you did not?" 1 Corinthians 4:7
Have low views of your talents — do not boast, if God has given you many. Do not pride yourself upon what is only lent you, and may be recalled at any moment. Have you any reason to be proud of that which increases your responsibility, lays you under deeper obligations, is intended to be only used to the glory of the God, and for the use of which, you must give an account?
Have low views of your acquirements, they are not what they might have been — so that you have nothing to boast of.
Have low views of your rights — few have correct views here. As men — we have our rights among our fellow men; but as sinners — what rights have we before God? The rights of a rebel in arms against his Sovereign? The rights of a subdued rebel? The rights of a vile traitor? Who talks of these 'rights'? What are these 'rights' among men — but the rights of the prison, the chopping-block, or the noose? What are the rights of a sinner before God — but condemnation, and eternal punishment in hell? Oh, let us be humble — for humility befits us!
Have low thoughts of your place.
What was it originally? The dung-hill!
What — but for grace, would it have been eternally? The bottomless pit!
What should it be now? The dust, the lowest place!
Oh, Christian, we can never lay too low before God, we can never be too humble in God's church; and even among our fellow men, we shall only be respected the more, if we show that like our beloved master — that we are meek and humble of heart! "Better to be of a humble spirit with the humble, than to divide the spoil with the proud." Consider now,
The DESIGN of this direction.It is to try the spirits. There are many false spirits, gone forth into the world in the name of Christ. There are in the church, many spirits, beside the Spirit of Christ. Among real Christians, there is often a great lack of real humility. Here is the test, are you willing with Paul to sit lowest, as "least of the Apostles," "less than the least of all saints," "the chief of sinners". Oh, this lowest place tries many! They cannot take it. The proud spirit will not stoop to it. What, am I to be considered nothing? Am I to wash the feet of saints who are poor day laborers, fishermen, and mere servants? You know Jesus did, and said, "I have left you an example — that you should do as I have done unto you."
Oh, the lowest place tries the spirit! It is to test our principles, we profess self-annihilating principles — but do we possess them? Are we prepared to be nothing? To be saved as nothing. To be used as nothing. That is, as not deserving the Lord's notice, as unworthy of the Lord's regard. How easy to profess the self-denying principles of the gospel, yet how hard to practice them. How many use the cloak. They cover pride — with the cloak of humility; and SELF — with the robe of the Savior. But it will not do; we are in the sight of God — as the heart is. The professed principles of many, point them to the lowest place — but they take the highest place, and claim it as a right.
It is to prevent pride, which Jesus hates; and prejudice, which injures the church; and disappointment, which harrasses the spirit; and confusion, which fills with agitation and distress. Out Lord would have us ornamental, useful, and happy; therefore he says, "Take the lowest place." We will now more particularly consider the
Reasons why we should take the lowest place.
Because Jesus took the lowest place — He made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, a slave; He made Himself servant of all, lowest of all; He pleased not Himself. He was among His disciples — as one that serves. He was at every ones beck and call. He refused no one — but did all, and everything that was requested of Him; and said, "It is enough for the servant — that he be as his Lord."
Because the greatest Apostle took the lowest place. He said, "I am not worthy to be called an Apostle." Again, "Though I am free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might save the more." He adds, "Be imitators of Me, even as I also am of Christ." "Give no offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, not to the Church of God. Even as I please all men, not seeking my own profit — but the profit of many, that they may be saved."
Because all do take the lowest place, just in proportion as they know themselves, realize the power of free grace, and walk closely with God. The experimental knowledge of ourselves — will be sure to humble us; the sensible power of the grace of God — will lay us lower still; but nearness to God — will annihilate self altogether, and we shall feel that we are nothing, less than nothing, and vanity!
Because taking the lowest place — qualifies us to rise, for "before honor is humility," and commends us to God, to godly men, and to conscience. The Lord has respect to the humble. He says, "This is the one I esteem — he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my Word!" The less we are in our own eyes — the more we rise in the estimation of the godly wise. And when we lie low, and act under the power of self-abasement, conscience like a good friend, is sure to commend us.
Once more, because it ensures our commendation, and a higher place. The master of the spiritual feast will come in by-and-bye, and looking with a loving eye upon the man in the lowest place, will say, "Friend, come up higher!" Then all eyes will be turned upon him, and he will have reverence and respect shown him. We may be allowed to keep the lowest place, you see, even until the master comes; men may not exalt us — but when He comes, every man will have due praise of God.
My brother, the lowest place — is the safest place. There are no shameful falls from here. The man who chooses the lowest place — will escape much of the envy, jealousy, and strife of tongues, from which others suffer; and be permitted to pursue the even tenor of his way, proving, that "godliness with contentment is great gain."
The lowest place — is the happiest place. Jesus is often with us there. He feeds among the lilies. He walks among the myrtle trees, that are in the valley. The man in the lowest place, escapes most trouble, and enjoys most comfort. He who sits lowest — is most clearly a Christian, there is no doubt about him, whatever there may be about others, for he is so like Jesus, there is so much of the spirit, temper, and disposition of Jesus about him. His calling and election are sure. Observers will say of Him, if there is a Christian in the world — that is the man."
Many admire — and few envy him. He makes no noise — but he does much good, and brings great honor to God.
Sitting in the lowest place, is the way to have peace in the Church, prosperity in the soul, and success in the Lord's work. The humble never strive, except it be to honor Jesus. They never contend, except it is for the faith. They never wrestle — but against principalities and powers in heavenly places. They prosper in their souls, for in the lowest place — faith grows exceedingly, love burns with a glowing heat, hope roots in the rock of ages, and peace increases until it surpasses all understanding.
Those who sit lowest — do most good. God can trust them, without fear of being robbed by them; he can use them, certain that He shall not be dishonored by them. These are the vessels of honor, fit and prepared for the Master's use.
The lower we are — the nearer to Jesus, and the greater our blessings. The snow remains unmelted on the lofty mountain peaks, while the valleys smoke with heat; the rain runs from the hills — but penetrates, settles in, and fructifies the valleys. So the sun of righteousness, pours its light and heat into the humble soul; and the Holy Spirit like living waters, flows and fills the humble spirit.
Blessed position! May the lowest place be mine — with all its attendant blessings!
But, reader, let nothing keep you from the feast which Jesus has made, the glorious gospel feast; he invites you to come, you are heartily welcome, and if coming — you take the lowest place, you will have some choice portions sent you from Him who presides, and bade you come. The woman in the Pharisee's house, went behind the guests, took her place at the feet of Jesus; but to her alone, the Savior said, "Woman, your sins are forgiven — go in peace." Take her place, in her spirit, and you shall have her portion; even a full pardon, blessed peace, and the sense of acceptance in your soul.