Jesus loves to teach around the dinner table. Once again, in spite of his condemnation and very harsh words for the religious leaders of his day, they still want him around and they still invite him over for a meal. This time he tells a parable that deals with a meal as well. He first teaches people that if you are going to be the first in the kingdom of heaven you must be servant of all. Back in the 1st century there was a certain protocol in regards to where people sat distinguished their place of honor and their status. Without living in a caste system it is hard to understand exactly what is going on here. What Jesus tells his disciples is that we should put ourselves last and then the potential is there that the host would bump us up to first. If we put ourselves first, we will most certainly be placed lower and that will be an embarrassment. What is a little unusual in these verses is that the teaching really revolves around how other people see you. Vs. 11 gives us the moral of the story: “All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
We then move onto another meal parable. He begins by saying that when you have a meal don’t invite those people that you know will return the favor. If you want to have a real blessing invite those whom you know will never return the favor. We tried that once in the church where I was a pastor in Florida. We had a bbq cookout in the poorest section of town. I took someone from that section with me to go shopping. We bought ribs and pork chops and the bill came out to over $800. We cooked up the food, there were a ton of people there, and then they came and took the food to go, and within 30 minutes it was just us church folk sitting around without any food because they had taken all the food back to their homes. When we got back and debriefed we realized that the sense of disappointment that we felt was a result of the fact that things didn’t work out the way that we wanted them to work out. They worked out exactly the way that the people to whom we were ministering wanted them to work out. At the end of the day we figured that it was more important that we were a presence even if it wasn’t on our terms, but rather theirs.