When in Doubt, Sit in the Back

I served as a volunteer police chaplain for a little over ten years. One day, two officers and I needed to take a squad car across town. There was a brief awkward moment where we had to decide who would sit in the back, in the molded plastic seat behind the glass. The seat where you have to wait for someone to let you out because you’re locked in. Of course, I couldn’t ask an officer to sit there, so I slid in. As we slowly moved down a main street, I thought it would be fun if anyone from church would recognize me. I don’t know what rumor might have taken shape, but it would have been interesting for sure.

Jesus says, “Given the option, take a seat in the back. If they ask you to come up in the front, it’s a whole lot less awkward than the other way around.”Here he is in his own words.

“When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

“Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14:8-11).

When in doubt, sit in the back. Start at the bottom. Let somebody else go first. Choose to fly under the radar. If there’s a good reason for bosses, leaders, host or people of influence to give you a better seat, that’s great. If not, you still get to enjoy the event and the view from wherever you are.

Jesus talks a lot about his “upside down” Kingdom. In it, the first are last and the last are first. The humble are exalted and the exalted are humble. The weak are strong and the strong are weak. The vocal get silenced and the mild-mannered get loud. And the things people fought to keep secret? They get shouted from the rooftops.

We spend too much time trying to control outcomes, when all Jesus asks is for us to control our posture. I can’t influence whether or not powerbrokers in a given environment will love, affirm or respect me. But I can be a calming presence, a person of honor and take a posture of humility. And if we do that, then respect tends to follow in time.

Sure, our natural tendency is to self-promote. To continually trumpet our achievements, our assets, our adventures or our appearances. But Jesus doesn’t say we could get humbled when we clamor for the spotlight, he guarantees we’ll get humbled.

When in doubt, choose to sit in the back. It might be uncomfortable for a minute, but it’s not nearly as embarrassing as being forced to sit there.

Craig Custance