You must admit that we are creatures of habit. How many of you take the same route to work every day? One time as I headed for church, as I approached a turn off I often took when going to work, I turned instead of going straight. Why did I do that? It was just an automatic thing that was done without thinking. It took me a few minutes to get back on the right path and I did manage to get to church on time.
We usually shop at the same grocery store or the same department store. We usually buy the same brand name products. We watch the same television programs and listen to the same radio programs. We even sit in the same seats in church. Ok, I know that I am close to meddling instead of teaching. However, it isn’t a new thing to seek out special seating.
At first the ancient custom was to sit at a table to eat. Most ate, as some Oriental people do, sitting on cushions around a low table. Later on, the Hebrews adopted the custom, borrowed from the Persians, of lying on couches to have a meal. They lay on their left sides and ate with their right hands. John Gill, in his “Exposition of the Entire Bible”, tells us that you could tell the status of the guest from the location where they sat. The set up for most feasts consisted of three low tables in the shape of a large U. Depending on which expositor you read, the best seats were either towards the upper end of the table, the middle of the table or at the lower end of the table where the master of the feast sat. One commentator states that the chief seat was the middle one at the upper end of the table.
In the synagogues there were seats at the front of the room clustered around the ark were the scrolls were kept. These seats faced the congregation. The chair closest to the ark was considered the best and coveted by the Scribes and the Pharisees. It was to these seats that the wealthy were invited to sit (James 2:2-3).
In early churches the pews were bought by the members of that particular church. The member held a pew deed and a recorded title to the pew. The money thus obtained went to the construction of the main church. These pews, privately owned, allowed the owners to build pew boxes around them. Given the diverse wealth of the members one can imagine the diversity in the construction.
Jesus taught that insisting on choosing a certain chair at any function could pose a problem. If you chose a chair that belonged to a more important person than you, you would be humiliated when asked to move. The problem was not that you choose to sit in the same seat every time. The problem was why you choose to sit in a particular seat.
In Matthew 23:1-7 Jesus begins a denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees. He tells the people to listen to them when they teach but not to emulate their life style. He tells them that their main objective in all that they did was to receive the praise of men. (Mt 23:5) They wore the elaborate robes, especially in public. The made sure that they were out in public at the time of prayer so that they could be seen praying, even out on the streets. They loved to be called Rabbi and receive all the benefits of their office. When they fasted they made sure that no one missed that fact that that were fasting.
Now what am I trying to say? Is it wrong to sit in the same seat Sunday after Sunday? This past June, we had about 389 kids and sponsors in our building at our annual Spiritual Explosion. No one got to sit in the seat they were used to. Did the world come to an end? Were there floods and earthquakes? No, the world spun around on its axis and we all had a great spiritual experience.
I will continue to sit in the same seat. I sit with one of our shepherds in front of me and one behind me so I must be a sheep that needs special care. I sit there because I like to sit up front. You choose to sit where you sit for whatever reason you choose. Just come in and sit. (Heb 10:25) You will be blessed by being here.