For better it is that it be said unto thee, Come up hither; than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen.
Humility will win the favor of God and men. Humility is crucial to be a great Christian, a successful leader, a gracious person, or a man with friends. True humility never presumes on the activities, approval, or presence of others. It is far better to be invited than to invite yourself, because you may and should be rejected on the basis of such presumption. Let others make you important rather than trying to do so yourself (Pr 25:27; 27:2).
Only half of the proverb is here. These words are the explanation and reward for taking a humble approach in public gatherings. The first half declares, “Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men.” Solomon taught humility by teaching good manners for social events. It is better to take a back seat and be invited forward than to take a front seat and be asked to move back in front of those present.
The Lord Jesus Christ used the same illustration for humility, when He saw proud guests at a meal choosing the better seats (Luke 14:7-10). With greater detail than Solomon, as a parable is more detailed than a proverb, Jesus described the public shame of being asked to move lower versus the public honor of being asked to move higher! He concluded by declaring that He would reward humility and punish pride (Luke 14:11). Beware!
While the shame of public dishonor and rejection makes the proverb potent and valuable, the pride of your soul is what must be identified and eliminated. Proud actions that offend others are merely the symptoms of an arrogant spirit and haughty heart. True humility begins in the soul, where you admit your worthlessness before God and commit yourself to serving others rather than expecting or demanding them to honor and serve you.
How are you in group discussions? Can you calmly and patiently listen to others speak, or are you agitated with the need to talk? What about one-on-one conversations? Must you respond to every statement with one of your own? Why is it crucial for you to speak? Why do you feel the need? You are violating the principle of humility taught by this proverb. You should remain silent in most cases until your opinion is specifically sought.
Consider a more distant application of this principle of humility and reservation taught by the proverb. If you are allowed the privilege to use a company expense account while traveling or for other assignments or perks in a job, you should always choose a less expensive place to eat and menu item than a more expensive place and costlier menu item. This choice is crucial for the character of a Joseph or Daniel necessary for success, and it will endear you to those over you approving the bills. They will trust you with more and tell you later to spend more. Many men cannot grasp such simple wisdom.
Your success requires humility and meekness. God Himself will surely bring you down, if you do not hate pride, arrogancy, and presumption (Pr 8:13; 15:25; 16:5; Job 40:9-14). Men will reject you for friendship or business, for most men resent a haughty spirit (Pr 13:10; 26:12,16; 28:11). And you will make costly mistakes, for pride is blinding and deceitful by its presumptions (Pr 11:2; 16:18; 29:23). Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, and He will exalt you soon enough (Pr 18:12; Jas 4:10; I Pet 5:6).