Stay Humble and Kind
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Delivered By
Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Delivered On
August 28, 2016
Central Passage
Luke 14:1-14

Rev. Jonathan Gruen
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 14:1-14
August 28, 2016


Stay Humble and Kind


“Hold the door.  Say please, say thank you.  Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie.  I know you got mountains to climb, but always stay humble and kind.  When the dreams you’re dreaming come to you, when the work you put in is realized, let yourself feel the pride, but always stay humble and kind.”

With these words, Tim McGraw not only gave the world a song, but he also sparked a movement and attracted a following.  “Stay humble and kind,” is a motto, a creed for many.  People are doing random acts of kindness—something nice for a stranger, something thoughtful for a friend, something loving for a dear relative.  Then, in order to inspire others and fill the world with more positive things, they document the act of kindness by posting online at #StayHumbleAndKind.

I think it has caught on, first, because it’s easy to remember.  It’s a simple philosophy that can deeply impact the way a person lives.  And, second, because our lives are so broken and our society so fractured, we’re always yearning for kindness, for love, for goodness.  In order to have that, we might even be willing to be reminded that we need to be humble.  We are reminded that a little kindness goes a long way.

It’s a good thing, of course.  And if it’s a song or a motto that you cherish and it reminds you to be mindful of others and think of yourself less, then that can be helpful.

I think the Pharisees could have benefited from listening to the country song!  They thought awfully highly of themselves.  And they weren’t very nice to those they thought were below them.  Luke (chapter 14) presents the account to us: “1One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully.”  They were watching him, but not like a son watches a father, not like a student watches a teacher, but rather like a politician watches an opponent, like a lion watches for a weak one to wander too far from the herd.  It was the Sabbath.  Jesus likely came by invitation, an invitation purposely on the Sabbath so that the self-righteous Pharisees could see for themselves if he would work on the Sabbath and condemn him!

You see, they had made sure there was someone there who was suffering.  Someone Jesus would have compassion on.  Someone Jesus would be kind to.  Someone Jesus would undoubtedly want to heal.  It was a setup!  See how evil preys on the kindness of righteousness!  But see how Jesus acts in love anyway!

“ And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy.”  Another name for dropsy is edema—a painful and often debilitating swelling of limbs and tissues because they retain fluids. 

Jesus, being the compassionate Savior that he is, and not one to back down from a fight, wants to heal the man, but also to challenge the self-righteous notions of the Pharisees.  “ And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent.”  Too chicken to say that they thought it was wrong, too chicken to say the awful words they believed were true, “We think it is a sin to heal on the Sabbath, a sin to help someone who is hurting on the Sabbath, a sin to bring relief to a pained body and sick soul on this day of the Lord, this day of rest.”  How ridiculous those words sound when said out loud, and they could not bring themselves to say it.

Neither would they be brave enough to say it to Jesus’ face after the miracle.  So Jesus heals.  “Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things.”

What a compassionate God we have!  What a loving Savior!—that he would see someone in need and take the risk in the face of the predators to help, save, comfort, and defend a poor sinner, a sick human, a person known and loved by him.  And the Pharisees…Well…Rules are good, but a self-righteous legalism is a tool of the devil.  And Jesus teaches the lesson—(although they probably stuffed cotton in their ears)—the lesson, “be kind.”  The Sabbath, after all, was made to be a day for people to rest in the promises of God’s Word and in the health of his love.  Surely, if we too have compassion even for animals, we should love and help other humans, even on a day of rest, especially on a day of rest, for as we serve with God’s strength, others find peace.

While that lesson, “be kind,” was being digested (or simply spat out), another lesson immediately follows, “be humble.”  “Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor…” This is a natural thing, (isn’t it?) for humans to want honor.  We want to be recognized for our status and achievements.  We want to be thanked for our service.  We want others to know what great sacrifice it was for us to have given so freely of ourselves, our precious time, are valuable resources.  We want praise, fame, attention, many likes on facebook, many retweets, followers and disciples.  And the most delusional form of this egotism is the innate belief that even God ought to recognize, appreciate, and reward the greatness that is “ME.” 

But Jesus drives home a lesson that says “stay humble.”  Before God, and before other people, be humble.  “Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor saying to them, ‘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, 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.’”

A lesson for the Pharisees.  A lesson for that Pharisaical nature in all of us.  The lesson goes beyond party etiquette, of course.  Jesus isn’t trying to help you avoid an embarrassing faux pas at the upcoming Labor Day BBQ.  Far more than that! This wisdom from the Lord may actually saves!  These warnings from Jesus should make us reevaluate how we think of ourselves, and remind us what our standing is before God.  By nature: lowly and condemned.  But by grace, and only by grace: exalted and saved.

You see, before the Lord, there is no one who does righteous, not even one.  Before the Lord, none deserve places of honor.  Before the Lord, our Holy God, all of us are dressed in filthy rags.  Yes, even our righteous deeds, our prostrate humility before God and our sacrificial kindness for neighbor—even that is filled with sin.  Look, and you will see.  Your motivation is not so pure.  Your humility is often false and your kindness is often a mask for your own selfish gain.  Your resolve is weak and your perseverance is short.  You give, but only a little.  You love, but imperfectly.  And even when you sacrifice and serve you wonder when things will start to go your way, when will you benefit, when will it all fall into place for you.

But when we hear this condemning analysis of Jesus, and humbly confess to God that it is true, that we are poor and lowly sinners, it is freeing.  For when we are humble before the Almighty God of the Universe, the Creator of All, the Author of Life, and the One who will judge the living and the dead, we find him to be merciful.  In the ultimate act of kindness the Son of God took on our weak and frail human flesh to know what it is to be tired and worn out and to serve and sacrifice and give and live as a slave of all, and be humbly obedient to the Will of the Father, perfectly subject to him even to the point of death on a cross.  And along the way Jesus had compassion on his brothers and sisters, his fellow humans.  He rebuked Pharisees, but only in love that he might win them over.  And some of them did come to believe.  He rebuked other sinners too, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen, Sadducees, teachers and students, mothers and fathers, all people, actually, that in love he might forgive them, help them, free them, and give them new life.

And in this way, our Savior Jesus says, “Friend, come up here.  Move up higher.  Take a place of honor at my table.”  The table ultimately refers to the heavenly banquet, where we who on earth were poor, crippled, lame, and blind will celebrate the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom, which has no end.  That’s what this text is about, ultimately.  Even as you hear the last portion of the text, it is an instruction for you to be humble and kind, of course, but hear it most of all as a description of what Jesus did for you.

12 He said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brother or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

He did this for me.  He knows my physical and spiritual weakness.  He knows my evil impulses, my selfish desires, my sinful words and actions, and every way I am proud, arrogant, and unloving toward others.  Yet he was willing to cancel a debt I could never repay, and give a kindness I could never return.  He calls me friend and promises me that I will be blessed at the resurrection of the just.  And the same goes for you.  And now we want to be like him.

Now, if we could love and live like Jesus, we’d always be humble and kind—humble before other humans, and certainly humble before the Father, as we confess sin and weakness and rejoice in his mercy that lifts us up; and kind to one another, having compassion on others, providing for their need, serving them sacrificially.  And by the strength of the Holy Spirit, who is given to us, we do live this out in our daily lives.  It’s just one of the benefits that the Christian faith has brought to this world, long before Tim McGraw ever sang his song, “Stay Humble And Kind.”

Now, his song encourages you or reminds you, that is a great thing.  But be sure to remember that it’s not enough.  That song is not the whole message.  As God’s people, we remember first the humility and kindness of our Savior that makes us new, and strengthens us to be like him, imperfectly now, but perfectly when that heavenly banquet begins.

Until then…well, you know what to do.  “Hold the door.  Say please, say thank you.  Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie…”  And remember your Savior Jesus, who always stayed humble and kind.  Thanks be to God for his great kindness to us.  Amen.