Have you ever wondered how some people are given a promotion over others? Was it because of their merit? Their work ethic? Their personality? Or was it at the expense of others? Was it because their own ambitions drove them to promotion regardless of those around them?
In the military environment (I’m confident that this is likely true in any corporate environment), I’ve witnessed this set of questions in regards to leadership. Specifically, when someone is given increased responsibility and/or rank, those around the leader will often remark that they are either well-deserving of the promotion, or they will comment that they were moved ahead as a result of stepping on others to get there (this self-promotion can be overt or subtle, but it eventually shows itself for self-promotion, given enough time). It does not appear that there is an in-between, but rather only the two extremes. One leaves the followers happy, the other leaves them scratching their heads.
How does one end up in the category of leading the happy followers? How do you end up being promoted based on merit, rather than circumstances that are at the expense of others?
In Luke 14:8-10, we see the example of waiting for an invitation to move to a place of honor.
“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. 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.”
In this parable, Jesus noticed how guests have ranked themselves at a wedding banquet. Through this example, He is teaching the concept of humility vs pride. In human nature it is easy to place oneself higher than others may see you in status or positional power. Jesus is teaching us specifically to allow for the host to choose where we sit at the table, lest we embarrass ourselves (and those around us) with our own false sense of importance.
Proverbs 25:6-7 (NASB) cross-references this concept.
“Do not boast in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the same place as great people: For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.”
These scriptures remind me of a time when I attended a family wedding. The ushers seated me in the 2nd row of the groom side, as part of the family. I noticed many rows behind me Uncle Kevin and Aunt Barbara, who by rights of being in the groom’s family, should be in the same row with me. I waved to them and invited them to come sit with me. As they moved to join me, I distinctly remember Aunt Barbara saying that it was better for them to have sat at the back and waited for the invitation to sit in the family row.
In a seemingly innocent conversation, two people illustrated a real-life example of living out the parables that Jesus taught us about humility and waiting for the invitation. Clearly it was an impactful showcase of this lesson, if years later I can still distinctly recall the scenario.
Something as simple as waiting for an invitation to be moved to a position of honor, translates to humility. It would serve us well to remember this in our daily lives, in the military promotions, in corporate American, or our political parties.
Our promotions to the head of the banquet table should be at the host’s discretion…not because of our own self-promotion.