Commentary by Walter Albritton


February 17, 2008


Humility Necessary for All Who Would Serve the Lord


Luke 14:1, 7-14


Key Verse: For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Luke 14:11


          If you have a haughty spirit you are on a collision course with God. When it comes to humility, God is not ambiguous. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it; God will humble the proud. You can count on it as surely as you can trust the sun to rise tomorrow.

           Wise old Solomon taught this long before the earthly days of Jesus. Proverbs 3:34 is well known: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James quotes this verse as he urges his readers to “submit yourselves to God” (James 4:6-7). James knows that the proud are not likely to “submit” to God. Still James holds out this precious promise – “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (4:10).

          The Apostle Peter was also impressed with Solomon’s warning, quoting it in his admonition to young Christians: “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).

          Obadiah offers this stern warning to the proud: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord” (1:3-4).

          Pride not only puts us at enmity with God, it also separates us from him. Pride spoils our witness and renders our service to God null and void. Pride stinks in the nostrils of God. To understand the grave danger of an arrogant spirit we have but to remember Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14).

          This parable strikes a hammer blow to the ugly nature of pride. The Pharisee was puffed-up with conceit about his own goodness. The Tax Collector on the other hand was the perfect example of humility, crying out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” He knew his condition and admitted it.

          But this gave God the opportunity to “exalt” him or “lift him up” so that he could return home “justified before God.” Then Jesus lays out this principle of the kingdom of God: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” What should get our attention is that no one is excluded: this truth is for “everyone.”

          His words are almost identical to those uttered in the lesson before us. How Jesus could drive home his point! No one, having heard his teaching about the place of honor at a wedding banquet, could ever attend another banquet without recalling Jesus’ warning. Since I first read these words of Jesus, I have never been able to walk into a banquet hall without thinking about what he said. I may “look” at the head table but an inner voice starts speaking immediately: “Don’t even think about taking a seat up there until the host calls you up there!”

          Jesus makes a beautiful connection between hospitality and humility. It is a lesson most of us need to heed – to find ways to offer loving hospitality to the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. God is pleased when we find ways to honor those who are unable to return our favors.

 We have the opportunity to humble ourselves in church on occasion by making strangers, especially the poor, to feel welcome. Instead of sitting always with our beloved friends, we can choose to sit beside someone who is lonely and hurting.

Thank God that in most of our churches we often find the poor and the wealthy kneeling beside one another to receive the Holy Sacrament. There, in the presence of the Lord, the ground is level. We are all sinners in need of grace. There, on occasion, we may find a new friend who can relate to us as we forsake our pride and cry out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” As surely as we make that request sincerely, God will wrap us up in his grace as he lifts us up. Surely God is pleased with us when we become wise enough to humble ourselves before him.

 (Contact Walter at