“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place.’” – Luke 14:8-9 (NRSV)
The Apocryphal Sirach offers the same truth without dressing it up in a parable: “Pride was not created for human beings” (10:18).
Sirach crushes any hope of wiggle room that we might be tempted to insert into Jesus’ parable. “Jesus said I shouldn’t place myself with pride in a place of honor, so let me just scoot down to the end of the table, where someone might notice me and invite me to a better seat. Surely it’s not pride if I conveniently position myself so that other people make a fuss about me.”
But no, according to Sirach. Pride was not created for human beings.
Not even for those who cloak their pride in humility and bad seating.
For whom then—or for what—was pride created?
Perhaps for the sun, which knows its work in creation and performs it faithfully. Perhaps for the tall sycamore, which is unafraid to shed its own skin for the sake of growth. Perhaps for the red-tailed hawk, which soars and dives with unwavering confidence in air currents it cannot see.
Perhaps most of all for the Holy Ego that has committed itself to an eternity of love.
God have mercy. In my not-so-secret heart of hearts, I want a better seat, or at least a better cushion for my seat. Teach me peace, not only humility, and I will boost your pride with praises.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and Sacred Pause, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.