If you’ve ever switched jobs you know that it can go a number of different ways. Sometimes we choose a new job in an entirely different field. This means that we have to learn completely new things, learn from scratch what is required. Depending on the job, this can be pretty difficult.
Sometimes it’s precisely the opposite – for example when we take a job doing the exact same work but simply for a different company. In this type of situation our experience really means a lot, and usually means that there is hardly anything new we need to learn.
But often when we switch jobs the experience is much more in-between the two examples above. In other words, sometimes the job we are going into is similar to our previous job but not exactly the same.
When this happens there are a few things we know already, but lots of things that are different from the job we came from. And as we learn this type of new job we probably find ourselves thinking over and over,
“In my old job we didn’t do it this way.”
“Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind; . . .”
So says Jesus to the host and some guests at a dinner he had been invited to (at the home of a leading Pharisee, of all things). I wonder what his listeners thought as Jesus launched into this particular parable, one in which he makes the puzzling statement,
“For everyone who exalts himself
will be humbled,”
and ends with the truly upside-down statement mentioned above – the one about inviting all the people no one would ever invite. Did they see it for what it was, wise words from the mouth of Jesus? Or did they wonder if he had gotten into the wine a little early?!
You got to hand it to Jesus – he loved describing a world that was the opposite of how most people lived, the exact opposite of how most people thought it should be. I imagine some of them were thinking to themselves, “What are you talking about? We don’t do it that way.”
Why don’t we do it that way?
A simple reason might be that (sadly) many of us don’t see that many other people doing it, don’t see it being modeled by the people we come in contact with the most. Think about it for a moment. Do our children (and others) see as we see?
Ignoring the homeless people we pass by, as if they were invisible?
Continually barking at and being rude to store clerks when things don’t go our way?
Trying to beat the system and get our TV and music without paying what is expected?
Criticizing everyone who doesn’t look like us or vote like us or pray like us?
Emphasizing winning at all costs and not being concerned with good sportsmanship?
Tossing every solicitation from a charity right in the garbage?
Gossiping about the problems of others – treating the pain and faults of other people as a kind of entertainment (especially when it comes to relationships and such)?
Continually being fixated on and having to get the latest model of some sort of technology (even when the one we currently have – phone, car, computer – is more than adequate)?
Never being willing to forgive people who have wronged us?
In other words, each of us (in a certain sense) has sort of learned what the “job” we call “life” is by observing those around us. And if what we see is a good number of people who seem to live as if meeting their own needs and wants are all that matters, we are more than likely going to embrace the same “job” – embrace the same way of being. That’s just how it often works. And that can be hard to unlearn.
Yet, that’s precisely what Jesus wants us to “unlearn”, wants us to discard. For people of faith – for disciples of Jesus – it’s not okay to simply keep saying, “Well, this is how we do things.” No, the “job” Jesus entrusts to us involves learning a new way of being, one in which we continue to imitate the good things we have seen others do, but one in which we also do away with all the “me-first” attitudes and behaviors some have shown us along the way, that is, do away with many of the old ways of doing things, the old “procedures” of our previous “job”, do away with and ignore the bad behaviors some of us have seen on a regular basis, maybe for nearly our whole lives.
It’s hard to remember, but most of us didn’t start out this way. We’ve learned some of these unhealthy things as we’ve gone along. In fact, kids are often the ones who challenge the behaviors of adults the most – wondering why we ignored the guy asking for money, wondering why politicians on TV are yelling at each other, wondering why we didn’t send money to the people who got hit by a hurricane, wondering why we hardly ever say “yes” when our school or church asks for volunteers, wondering why we got into an argument with our server in the restaurant, wondering why we don’t say please and thank you and I’m sorry – even though we expect them to.
And the truth is – we DON’T have to do it that way. We CAN’T continue to do it that way. We SHOULDN’T continue doing it that way.
There is another way. A better way. A more faithful way. A new way. THE WAY.
And so, my dear friends in Christ, let’s examine whether or not we are living the way Jesus wants us to live (a way unlike any other) or if we are simply living as many have shown us, living as if being exalted – being taken care of before all others – is all that matters.
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,”
Let’s be on the right side of that statement.