Luke 14:7 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, 8 “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in 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 table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
The last few weeks, the word “ambition” has been in front of me over and over again. I’m not an ambitious person. I don’t want someone’s job or more power or even more money. It’s been easy to wonder why the Holy Spirit keeps bringing that word to mind.
But as I’ve studied the Bible recently, I’ve come to appreciate that ambition comes in several different forms.
There is the ambition that causes a person to lose their integrity. This is the naked ambition that wants to control and own, all the while claiming that the takeover is best for everyone concerned. Sort of Hitler’s logic when invading Europe. “This isn’t German ambition. It’s just doing what’s best for your country. Now make room for the tanks.”
Then there is the ambition of recognition. It’s not a craving for power, but for applause. It’s the ambition to be known and recognized.
Or the ambition of competition. What is important is to win; to not be a loser. The metaphor of competition begins to take over everything until children, family and church all become part of the “race.”
And then there is the ambition of self-righteousness. This was the ambition of the Pharisees. It was a zeal for what was right- holiness, of a sort- but with an ambition to outdo others and be proclaimed as the “most spiritual.”
I’m fascinated by the words of Jesus here, because I can see Jesus asking us to make choices that directly confront the ambitions that surround us and that we find within us.
Jesus recognizes the various arenas of ambition, and he asks us to intentionally, personally, resist and repudiate them by 1) going to the place most consistent with humility as he exemplifies it, and 2) adopting a mindset of patient dependence on God to respond to us.
This isn’t a Christian scheme for success and promotion, as an unfortunate number of Christians apparently believe. It is simple instructions for choosing to renounce ambition, and put whatever “elevation” might possibly happen into the providence of God.
Jesus’ own life journey is a kind of “reverse ambition, ” but God the Father did exalt him with that name that is above every name…on the other side of the cross, and in a whole new world.
To see the pathway that Jesus walked, and to see the exaltation that belongs to him, we have to go to that last place seat, and do so without complaint, expectation or hidden agenda.
We do not go to that last place to show that we are spiritual. We go to the last place to simple let it all go, and leave the exalting to God…in his time and in his way.