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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The following is a Bible Study I wrote for my small group on Luke 14:7-11. The verses read as follows: 

"And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.10 But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend,move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” ~ Luke 14:7-11 (NASB)
I prepared this Bible Study in an effort to encourage the members of the group to move into greater levels of discipleship. The title reflects the viewpoint that while the Bible passage is about appropriate seating at a wedding feast, the point of the Bible study is not so Jesus can act like Dear Abby and give instructions for the correct social graces at such social gatherings. Rather, God is telling us something about humility when we come before God. 

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Dear Abby, What’s the Appropriate Way to Act at a Wedding?
Luke 14:7-11

“A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you're looking down, you can't see something that's above you.” ~ C.S. Lewis Quotes

What makes humility so desirable is the marvelous thing it does to us; it creates in us a capacity for the closest possible intimacy with God ~ Monica Baldwin

Don't be so humble--you are not that great. ~ Lord Lytton (Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton)

1.    Review Luke 14:1-6. Where was Jesus in these verses? How did He get there? What happened at the dinner? What did Jesus do that “silenced” the Pharisees and how did that silence them?

2.    Read Luke 14:7-11. What are the Pharisees doing that catches Jesus attention?

3.    The Pharisees were scrambling for the best seats. These Pharisees wanted to sit next to the host who himself sat at the head of the table. Why was being next to the host so important to the Pharisees?

4.    Jesus called out the Pharisees for this type of behavior in another place. Read Matthew 23:1-7. What does Jesus point out in these verses as some of the poor behavior of the Pharisees?

5.    Do we want to be the one at the head of the table? Do we want to be the one who shares the place with prominent people? Perhaps we want to be seen with the leaders of the business community. Perhaps we want to be seen as friends with the lead pastor of a church. Rhetorical question: do you have a place where you like to set yourself up to be prominent?

6.    What does Jesus say in response to the situation he observes? What is his closing comment in Luke 4:11? Were you aware that Jesus uses these same words in Matthew 23? Read Matthew 23:8-12. What is it that Jesus says in these verses about being exalted and being humbled? Read Luke 18:9-18. What is the attitude of the Pharisee that is being condemned by Jesus?

7.    What is Jesus really talking about here? Is he just giving the Pharisees advice about the seating arrangements at a dinner table? Is he just being a First Century version of “Dear Abby” dishing out advice on the appropriate etiquette so that someone does not get embarrassed while attending dinner with Pharisees?

8.    Note that verse 7 says that Jesus told the Pharisees a παραβολ (a parable). What exactly is a parable? According to The New International Bible Encyclopedia, a parable is: “(Gr. parabole), a placing beside; a comparison; equivalent to the Heb. mashal, a similitude. In the Old Testament this is used to denote (1) a proverb (1Sa 10:12; 24:13; 2Ch 7:20), (2) a prophetic utterance (Num 23:7; Eze 20:49), (3) an enigmatic saying (Psa 78:2; Pro 1:6). In the New Testament, (1) a proverb (Mar 7:17; Luk 4:23), (2) a typical emblem (Hbr 9:9; 11:19), (3) a similitude or allegory (Mat 15:15; 24:32; Mar 3:23; Luk 5:36; 14:7); (4) ordinarily, in a more restricted sense, a comparison of earthly with heavenly things, ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning,’ as in the parables of our Lord.” Which of these definitions do you best think fits what Jesus is trying to say here and why?

9.    John MacArthur says this about parables: “They are a simple story about something with which people are familiar that opens to their understanding something with which they are not familiar. This is just an earthly kind of behavior that illustrates a heavenly kind of behavior.” So, how would you describe a parable and how Jesus uses them here?

10. According to BibleStudy.org, Jesus spoke in parables to serve a dual function:

When his disciples were quite puzzled at the meaning behind his story of the sower and the seed they came to Christ privately for an explanation. His response was the following. "To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to the rest it is given in parables, so that in seeing THEY MAY NOT SEE, and in hearing THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND" (Luke 8:10, HBFV throughout). Consider the longer, parallel explanation in Matthew 13. 
10. And His disciples came to Him and asked, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 11. And He answered and said to them, "Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, BUT TO THEM IT HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN . . . 14. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, 'In hearing you shall hear, and in no way understand; and in seeing you shall see, and in no way perceive . . . (Matthew 13:10 - 11, 14) 
So, does Jesus contradict himself? How can parables both teach and REVEAL principles yet also CONCEAL profound truth? How do they teach important life lessons yet HIDE the knowledge needed for salvation? The answer lies in the fact that God has built into these stories two levels of meaning. 1. A basic, superficial understanding (which many times can still be misinterpreted) that the average unconverted person can comprehend apart from God, and 2. A deeper, more profound spiritual meaning that can ONLY be understood by those whose minds God has opened. Only those 'to whom it has been given,' meaning those the Eternal is actively working with, can comprehend the profound spiritual truths parables discuss.

11. What is the more profound meaning that can be gleaned from Luke 14:7-11? Consider: the parable is about a wedding banquet – the most important type of banquet that might have been experienced in these ancient communities. So, considering this as a parable, what marriage might we be talking about? Who is the groom? Who is doing the inviting?

12. What is Jesus really saying should be our attitude when being invited to the feast? Has the groom humbled himself? (See Philippians 2:5-8) Should we be like the groom when approaching this particular wedding feast? In what way should we be different?

13. Can a man exalt himself? Who does the exalting? Consider Psalm 75:6-7: “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. It is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.” Also, consider Philippians 2:9-11.

14. In light of the foregoing, how would you summarize what Jesus was saying in this parable? What should be our reaction as people who are followers of the truth?

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