He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)
You’re having a party, who are you going to invite? Imagine this party is a big deal, might be covered by the media and could be the talk of the town. Who is on that guest list? Also, who won’t be on the list? Who would you never consider?
It continues to baffle and intrigue me that Jesus got invited to dinner with the Pharisees. He was debating them and his positions would often embarrass them in front of the people who were due to hold them in high regard.
As it baffles me why they invite Jesus, it’s almost incredulous that Jesus does not follow the protocol of the house guest, but continues to challenge his host. Challenge them in their own home to their faces, not just on one issue but on several. It’s as though inviting Jesus into your home is no guarantee of a safe and comfortable house party.
Speaking of which, one of the major areas that Jesus challenges his host on is who to invite to a banquet. Jesus makes a stunning statement then goes on to reinforce it with a telling parable that reveals both the tendency of those who see themselves as privileged and the one who sets up the banquet. The stunning statement is not to invite rich neighbours and friends to dinners,but rather invite those who are sick, poor – essentially those in no position physically or economically to return the favour.
In the follow up parable, Jesus describes the lengths to which the banquet host will go to ensure firstly that his banquet is well attended and secondly to deal with those who snub the initial invitation. It is indicative that the host has no problem ensuring those who could never repay him for the honour are welcome to the banquet, whereas those who choose to neglect the invitation will never benefit from it.
The wonder of the invitation to enjoy the feast of God is that we can never repay him. It is impossible. Without Him we are nothing and we have nothing. He is everything and has everything, so it should be a great honour and thrill to be invited to celebrate with Him. Those who recognise they have nothing and are invited to enjoy something put on by the one who has everything will tend to respond with gratitude and joy. Especially when they see the heart behind it is purely one of generosity and kindness.
I remember reading this episode and being struck with how radical it is. It was difficult to see where this was practiced until I came across a brilliant scheme that made it a habit to regularly bless people this way. The initiative was called V.I.P. and involved a massive spread being laid out in a hall with a variety of booths and services like hair stylists, manicurists, etc being on hand. Then invites were given to the homeless, destitute and impoverished to come to this event and as the title suggests they were treated like nobility. Served immaculately, pampered impeccably, loved unreservedly. For those hours in that venue they were special guests and it was the pleasure of the hosts to bless them in whatever they could – no strings attached.
That initiative reminds me of this episode. It also reminds me that the initiative isn’t supposed to be so unique. It’s supposed to be a regular hallmark of those who follow Jesus. After all in reaching us, he has invited us to feast with him, even though we have nothing to offer. So it should be no problem to consider those who likewise be perceived to have little to offer and with joy invite them to be blessed.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden