The following is a guest post by a good friend and brother of mine, Brock Paulk, who serves as the preaching minister with the Heritage Church of Christ in Keller, TX. Enjoy!
These are also proverbs of Solomon, copied by the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah: It is the glory of God to hide something and the glory of kings to discover something. Like the high heavens and the depths of the earth, so the mind of a king is unsearchable. Remove the dross from the silver, and a vessel will come out for the refiner. Remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established in righteousness. Don’t exalt yourself in the presence of the king, or stand in the place of important people, because it is better that he say to you, “Come up here” than to be demoted before a ruler. (Proverbs 25.1-7)
Have you ever been asked to describe your most embarrassing moment? It’s not a question you’re likely eager to answer in front of people you don’t know well.
We’ve all had moments we wish we could take back. Maybe you had a wardrobe malfunction, or maybe one of your kids repeated something in public that you wish they hadn’t heard you say at home. When I was in college helping to produce a welcome-to-campus event for the incoming freshman class, I ungracefully tripped, running at full speed, in front of 1500 new students and many of my school friends. Some impression I made!
It’s embarrassing to think about how much effort most of us go through to avoid being embarrassed, isn’t it? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m overly-compulsive about double-checking my pants zipper before I go on stage at our church to preach or make an announcement. In our culture, a lot of energy and money is spent on primping, grooming, trimming, preparing, and concealing in order to avoid embarrassment.
So the wisdom presented in Proverbs 25:1-7 seems practical, even for those of us to don’t often find ourselves in the presence of “royalty.” The passage reminds us – kings are ordained leaders, tasked with seeking Godly wisdom to direct the affairs of the kingdom in righteousness. And when you appear before the king and choose where to stand in the royal court, remember the relative importance of your position and choose accordingly so that you won’t be embarrassed.
… it is better that he say to you, “Come up here,” than to be demoted before a ruler.
Demotion is embarrassing. Demotion takes the wind out of your sails…it makes you look around and see who’s watching in the hopes that nobody else noticed.
When the opinion that matters is that of the earthly king, whose glory is different than God’s (v.1), a servant can garner promotion simply by standing in a strategic place.
But honor looks different for a follower of Christ.
After reading Proverbs 25:1-7, it’s an easy jump to think about Jesus’ instruction from Luke 14:7-14. Jesus offers similar wisdom here – when you’re invited to a feast, remember your position and choose your seat accordingly so that you won’t be embarrassed.
… go and sit in the least important place. When your host approaches you, he will say, ‘Friend, move up here to a better seat.’ Then you will be honored …
Of course, the temptation is to use the advice from these two passages to try to work the system, intentionally and visibly demoting ourselves in an attempt to garner compliments and accolades.
But Jesus takes a longer view into the future. When he says, “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” he’s not just explaining how to get a better dinner seat. Jesus is concerned with teaching his servants not to pursue rewards from humans, but to pursue honor “at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:14)
In God’s economy, it’s not the humble seat that deserves honor, but the humble heart. When the opinion that matters is that of our Heavenly Father, we please him by emptying ourselves, emptying ourselves and becoming obedient (Philippians 2:6-8), just like Jesus.
The question for us becomes, “Which king do we serve?” If it’s the honor of humans that we desire, we can manipulate our way to promotion. If it’s the honor of the Kings of kings, we must give our honor away.