10/9/22- Trinity 17 – “Humility” – Luke 14:1-11

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

I. Introduction

1. We all know the difference between false and true humility. It doesn’t take much time when interacting with a person to spot someone who has a false humility. We have all known people like this. They portray themselves as sweet and caring, feigning concern and care for you, when in reality they’re too self-absorbed to care about you and your life. They’ve learned from experience, though, that their narcissistic attitude rubs people the wrong way. But rather than working to change that attitude, they have learned to play the part. They have learned to pretend that they are caring and kind and humble. But they’re not. It’s all a sham. And it’s usually the people around this person who are more aware of it than the person themselves. We all have known or do know people like this. Some are “worse offenders” than others. Some are more in-your-face and obvious than others. But we’ve all known people like this. It’s easy to point the finger and say, “Pastor’s talking about so-and-so.” But what if I’m also talking about you? What if you need to hear a message about true humility just as much as the people you’re thinking of? See, False humility means to think of yourself more highly than you ought (Romans 12:3). How many of us do this? How many of us have a higher opinion of ourselves than we do of others around us? To varying degrees, we are all guilty of this. We may recognize this attitude more readily in others than we do in ourselves, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there in ourselves.

2. In our Gospel Reading for today, our Lord challenges us to consider the difference between false and true humility. We all know what false humility looks like, and we have plenty of experience with it, as we’ve just discussed. True humility, however, is much more difficult to find. True humility is not the direct opposite of false humility. That is so say, true humility does not mean thinking of yourself more lowly than you ought. Rather, True humility means thinking rightly about yourself according to God’s reckoning. With this in mind, we will consider the following two points, drawn from our text:
1.) We care about the wrong opinions
2.) Christ humbles us so that he might exalt us.

II. We Care about the Wrong Opinions

3. First, we consider how we care about the wrong opinions. This is, in so many ways, the root cause of false humility—to care about the opinions of man rather than the opinion of God. For many people who exhibit false humility, the opinion they care most about is their own. This is something, no doubt, that each one of us is guilty of to varying degrees. We trust our own observations and opinions too highly, despite the warning of the Scriptures. In the Old Testament Reading, we heard an example of such a warning:

What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court (Proverbs 25:7c-8a).

Yet we are hasty and we often ignore others in favor of our own exalted opinion. If you need proof of this, just look at the way in which we often interact with others. When others share their problems and struggles with us, we are quick to speak and to share our opinion. We think that after only just learning about their problem that we, in our infinite wisdom, can immediately solve the problem with which they have been struggling for days or weeks or years. How arrogant and prideful of us! Or when we speak with someone, we rarely actually listen to what they are saying. Rather, we spend most of the time that we should be listening thinking about what we are going to say next. We care too much about our own opinions. And so, this attitude leads to pride and self-exaltation. We can attempt to cover it up by exhibiting a false sense of humility, but others will see through our sham. And whether or not they do, our God does. He sees all and knows all. And, as our Lord said at the end of our Gospel Reading for today:

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

4. Some people care most about their own opinion. But for many people who exhibit false humility, the opinion they care most about is that of others. This is the false humility that we see manifest so clearly in our Gospel Reading. Our Lord saw the prideful, self-exalting behavior of those people who were at dinner with him. He saw the way in which they maneuvered themselves to receive the greatest honor they could. And so, our Lord spoke a parable to show how the way to honor and exaltation is actually through humility. But here’s the irony of our Lord’s parable: The one who seeks honor and exaltation through humility is by nature not being humble. If you try to demonstrate humility simply for the sake of honor and exaltation among men, it is a false humility which you are demonstrating. One who cares most about the opinions of others can never truly be humble because they will always seek to exalt themselves, even if through a feigned humility. And so, as our Lord said at the end of our Gospel Reading for today,

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Thus we see how, whether it is our own opinion or the opinions of others, we care about the wrong opinions.

III. Christ Humbles Us so that He Might Exalt Us
5. But now let us consider how Christ humbles us so that he might exalt us. In our Epistle Reading for today, St. Paul says:

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).

But what about when we don’t? What about the times when we don’t walk in true humility and gentleness and patience, not bearing with one another in love? What about when our actions reveal that we care about the wrong opinions? This is where we discover something about the final verse of our Gospel text. At first, it seems to be a statement of law, but it is actually also a statement of Gospel.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

See, this is a promise. When you get out of line, when you start acting prideful and exalted, the Lord promises to humble you. Like a parent who disciplines their child, our Lord loves you enough to humble you when you become prideful because he wants nothing more than for you to think rightly about yourself according to his reckoning. And so, when you get caught in the narcissistic game of false humility, the Lord will humble you. It might be through an embarrassing experience. It might be through a horrible experience, whether that experience was brought upon yourself or whether it was seemingly undeserved. But the Lord will use these experiences to humble you and to bring you closer to him.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

Why does he humble us in these ways? Because he loves you. Because he has your eternal good in mind. He desires for you to be exalted at the wedding feast on the last day, so in the meantime he humbles you when you need it. And he does so by reminding you who you are. You are a poor, miserable sinner. Your life is filled with sins and iniquities and so you justly deserve his temporal and eternal punishment. But you are also “Beloved in the Lord.” You are God’s child. You are his own. And so, in his boundless mercy, the holy and innocent Christ Jesus came to endure bitter suffering and death in order that he might be “gracious and merciful to [you], a poor, sinful being.” When you see clearly who you are, you also see clearly who he is.

“Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124:8).
“I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5).

My friends, Christ humbles us in this life so that he might exalt us in the life to come. So, don’t be discouraged when struggles and trials come about. Whether or not the Lord himself brought the trial, you can be assured that he is working through it to humble you into the kind of person who knows and trusts in his goodness more and more so that at the right time he might exalt you. May our Lord grant us the strength and the humility to endure until that day.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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