Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." Luke 14:12-14 (NIV)
When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of food and a time for family and friends to gather together and give thanks for all of God’s blessings. When I was a child, Thanksgiving consisted of eating, spending time with family, cornbread dressing, and dessert. Did I mention eating? However, after reading Luke 14:12, it occurred to me that my view of a celebration dinner may not be the same as Jesus’ view of a celebration dinner!
A Pharisee invited Jesus to his home for a banquet on the Sabbath. As Jesus approached the front of the room, He noticed that the Who's Who were seated near the head of the dining table. As He looked around, he realized that many Pharisees—experts in the law—filled the room. So before dinner was served, Jesus took the opportunity to share His religious views and taught those attending how to host a party. Jesus said to please God, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, since they wouldn’t be able to repay them for their kindness. And if that didn’t get their attention, He told them to be careful not to sit close to the head of the table because they just might be asked to move for someone who was considered more important. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t think this was the conversation they expected to have over dinner. I think Jesus knew they had invited Him to dinner in order to try to trick Him into doing something they could later use against Him.
So why do you think Jesus decided to take this opportunity to teach on “party etiquette?” I think it’s because Jesus knew He had been invited to dinner so the Pharisees could trick Him to do something for which they could later arrest Him. Yet Jesus could care less about being misunderstood. Jesus saw this as the perfect opportunity to teach on who mattered most to Him. And even though we were not at the party, we understand that Jesus wants us to love the unlovely and help the helpless. This is a reminder that we live between two worlds: this world and the world to come. And what we do while living in this world will determine what rewards we will receive in the new world. When we are in heaven, we all will desire rewards to offer to Jesus. But living unselfishly is part of the abundant life that allows us to enjoy life while in this world.
When planning a dinner party, it’s easy to consider inviting those who can help us financially, boost our social status, or impress others. But should financial gain or social status be our motivation for friendship? I have often said, “A person wrapped in their own selfish desires makes a small package!” In other words, when the motivation for everything we do is self-promotion or personal gain, we reduce ourselves to a very small package. Jesus isn’t saying not to invite friends into our homes or to only invite the helpless for dinner. Jesus is teaching that we have an amazing opportunity to reach out and love people who are considered unlovable. As I thought about the guest list Jesus recommended, it occurred to me that it is often easier to love and accept a stranger than the people who know us the best—our family! Is there someone in your life longing for someone to accept and love them unconditionally? Jesus taught to love everyone—the loveable and the unlovable, family and stranger—and He consistently demonstrated how to love the unlovely while He was here on earth.
Jesus’ instruction about seating arrangements is really a warning to us. God has a way of humbling and reminding us that He does not share His seat (throne) with anyone, especially if we think too highly of ourselves and try to take the spotlight! I’m sure we can each recall situations when someone in power thought that the rules did not apply to them but eventually were exposed and endured public humiliation. Whether it’s an athlete, politician, performer, or a well-known pastor, God has a way of allowing the truth to come out and humbling His children. I have lived long enough to see God reveal the evil things done in secret, one way or another.
As we prepare for Thanksgiving, let’s think of who will be joining us for dinner. Perhaps this is the perfect time to forget about ourselves and look for ways to love each one invited and maybe even expand our invitation list. We will never look back and regret loving others, especially when we see the nail prints on Jesus’ hands as He reaches out to say, “Well done!” Let’s celebrate for eternity!
Further ReadingLuke 14; Matthew 25:40; Acts 6:1-6; Romans 15:26