C. S. Lewis was asked once to give the baccalaureate sermon at the commencement exercises at Oxford University. Lewis entitled his remarks “The Inner Circle” and used Luke 14 as his text. He began by noting that the graduates’ education had equipped them to become the leaders of the nation, folks who would someday reach the inner circle of real power. He went on to say that there were two different routes to such a destination. They could set out to gain access to this circle as quickly as possible. They could focus on “being something” rather than “doing something,” and thus seek to manipulate their way into prominence by any means available. This, Lewis said, was the quickest, but by no means the best road to take. The other avenue was to set out “to do good work,” to master the discipline they had chosen, believing that eventually others would recognize good work. From such work comes real authority and competence, he claimed, and for that reason one is invited into the inner circle, and does not have to maneuver one’s way in. In the long run, there are no shortcuts to real authenticity.

That is exactly what Jesus means when he says, “Don’t head for the front row, the prominent seat, the minute you arrive. Start out much more simply by helping other people find their places. If you elevate yourself into a position you don’t deserve, you will be exposed and embarrassed. Focus on learning to do something well, not on being something artificially big, and in the end it will lead to joy.” – Pastor MacLean