At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was brPut not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men: For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; Than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.Proverbs 25:6–7
This principle in Proverbs provides a good example of how the Lord’s teaching in the gospels was not as “innovative” as some people have thought. The Lord Jesus was steeped in the Scriptures, and His “you have heard it said” was directed at misapplications of the Word, not the Word itself. He taught us to love our enemies, for example, but so did the Old Testament. “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink” (Proverbs 25:21).
In this proverb, we see the background for the Lord’s teaching on the scramble for good seats at a wedding reception.
“And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” (Luke 14:7–11).
The fact that this proverb provides a backdrop also helps us to a fuller understanding of what is going on as people are jockeying for position at a banquet. The banquet is not a stand alone event, where conceited people can throw elbows about who gets the happy seat. In Proverbs we are talking about the “king” and “great men,” which means that we are talking about ambitious men. The seating arrangements are representative of power and position.
And so the Lord’s teaching applies to petty individuals who are concerned about the honors of the evening, and it also applies on a grand scale to courtiers and princes. The principle is constant, while the settings can change radically. The heart issues are constant, and the settings—the king’s court or the pecking order in an eighth grade classroom—simply determine how many chips we push to the center of the table. The heart that relinquishes “honor” (in principle) has to be the same kind of heart, regardless of how big the honor might be. It could be an MVP honor for a high school basketball team, or it could be a cabinet seat. A follower of Christ should respond the same way.