This week's first reading and the Gospel are clearly in the wisdom tradition but my skeptical side always ponders just how wise the advice really is.
Take Sirach 3:18 -
Humble yourself the more, the greater you are,If I must ask myself whether I'm great then I'm obviously not and, so, am off the hook!
and you will find favor with God.
Certainly the next verse resonates with me, loud and clear -
What is too sublime for you, seek not,But the next verse appears to be some sort of built in protection against criticism -
into things beyond your strength search not.
The mind of a sage appreciates proverbs,I don't always appreciate proverbs, therefore I'm not a sage? Who'd be happy with that assessment? Better to pretend to appreciate proverbs?
The Gospel reading applies Sirach's advice in a real-life setting, dinner with one of the leading Pharisees. Kenny recognized the Scripture from the handful of parables covered in VBS this summer. Good for him.
Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’On the other hand, if you're like me and habitually arrive late (and last), just take whatever seat is available, if any.
But is the proper motivation for humbling oneself the hope of promotion? I mean, come on. Does this passage actually encourage ulterior motives? And so, if I reject the ethic of this passage - refuse to affix hope of promotion on the virtue of debasing myself in social settings, am I not living according to biblical teaching?
I prefer Sirach whose focus is on finding favor with God because there's no mention of pleasing God in the passage from Luke until, perhaps, the final verse -
Blessed indeed will you be ... For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.The part about feeding people who can't repay you reminded me of the scene from the original Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) after the desperate farmer tries to shoot Deeds and Deeds gives him a meal.
The second reading gives a compelling contrast between Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion which may be only vaguely related to (Christian) wisdom literature, in the idea that there are "two paths" (Deut. 30:19; Prov. 9). I was reminded that Pilgrim's Progress makes use of those symbols, Mt. Sinai and Mt. Zion, for law and grace.1
1 Pilgrim's Progress - Wiki