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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, September 1, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Luke 14:1, 7–14

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.

When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (NRSV)

Human beings have a need to be loved and respected. We are inherently relational beings, created in the image of a relational God. This is a good and beautiful thing, but it’s important to get these needs met in a healthy way.

In this parable, Jesus suggests that claiming the seat of honor may lead to our downfall, and giving in order to receive may not bring us the reward we are longing for. When we honor ourselves over others, we try to address a spiritual need with a human solution. Our need for dignity cannot be won by comparing ourselves to others. And when we give in order to receive, we try to win love through creating a subtle indebtedness.

Although Jesus is describing outward actions, he is also pointing to an inward experience. There is an inner state of peace and self-worth that allows us to give with a spirit of trust and from a sense that we are enough and we have enough.

When I trust that God is with me, that God cares for me, that God is helping me each step of my life, then I am spiritually free to give more to others. Then I am free to give without needing anything in return, because I already know that I am loved and respected by God.

No human being can ever love us enough to make us feel worthy or secure if we continue to feel unworthy ourselves. To expect them to do so is to have divine expectations of human beings, as Henri Nouwen has said. When we are able to give without needing to receive something in return, it means we are giving from a sense of trust.

Holy One, fill me with love for you. Help me to trust your love for me. Fill me with a sense of sufficiency so that I may be free to give without needing to receive in return. Amen.

Written by Nanette Sawyer, Associate Pastor for Discipleship and Small Group Ministry

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