Best Seat in the House

A couple of years ago, I took Lynn to a Casting Crowns concert at Norfolk Scope. It was her birthday, and I wanted to do something a little bit special—so I spent $20 a ticket extra for special seating. Where do you think that seating was? Right up front. People pay a lot more extra money (so I’ve been told) and sit in a special place on an airplane. Where is this special “first class” seating? Right up front. When we went to see Kati in the Tabb school play, we made sure she got us tickets in advance. Where? Right down front. So why is it that so many people seem to think that at church, the best seats are always on the BACK row. I don’t get it. It's just wrong!

In our Bible reading from Luke 14, Jesus has some things to say about the seats we choose. No, He doesn’t actually say that we should sit down front in church and save the back for late-comers and people with small children. Or maybe that is exactly what He is saying. The place of honor at banquets was always next to the host. The guest of honor would be seated right next to the host, and the seating for the rest of the guests would fan out from there. When you showed up for a banquet, the seat that you chose said something about how important you think you were. Jesus noticed that the people at the banquet were fighting over all the best seats, and he saw that as a teachable moment—
When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. (Luke 14:8-10)

Jesus says to show deference to others. Take the worst seat, and let the host move you to a better one if that is necessary. Don’t emphasize yourself; don’t dwell on your own importance. Don’t make personal choices based upon inflated views of self-importance. Remember that “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”(Luke 14:11).

Of course, none of this applies to us because we don’t have this silly tradition about ranking people in importance based on seating charts (unless you go to $1000-a-plate political fundraisers). But maybe there are some related “seating” issues that might apply to our choices today—

  • But where do you sit at church potlucks—with your friends or with people who seem to need company and encouragement?

  • What church events do you find yourself seated in— only the ones that will benefit you or ones where your presence will encourage and benefit others?

  • Do you always sit in the same seat at church (in the back) or do you move around to fill in where you are needed or to be around new people to meet and greet and make welcome?

Maybe the place where we sit shows more about how hung up we are on ourselves than we think. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”(Luke 14:11).