Then Jesus said to his host, “when you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your 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)
We live in a culture that doesn’t seem to invite friends and neighbors over for dinner often – especially people we don’t know. What is Jesus trying to teach us today? Is this another impossible standard to follow.
In Jesus’ day, hospitality was part of the culture. People often ate together and entertain travelers. In the preceding verses, Jesus was chastising the Pharisees while they were sitting around the table for trying to position themselves to sit in places of honor. It seems that people extended invitations within their network to attain more influence or maintain a social standard. Jesus presented a different pattern that was foreign to them – a pattern that centered upon humility.
Our lesson is not necessarily to start inviting the disadvantaged over for dinner, but understand the importance of humility. We can apply this lesson to church culture and how it may influence evangelism.[See “Church culture and evangelism”]
Perhaps Jesus is not so concerned about who you are inviting over for dinner, but who you are inviting to come to an eternal banquet in heaven.
When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ “’Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” [Luke 14:15-24)
A few weeks ago, I was talking on the phone with a pastor who has a growing church in Las Vegas. The Lord is blessing one evangelism effort called “Mornings with Mommy.” This program is providing wonderful opportunities for church families to interact with families in the neighborhood. Moms are extending invitations to other moms to come and hear a message of good news. And they are accepting their invitations.
Another pastor from Arizona shared with me that their preschool is a blessing for their congregation. When moms from church are connecting with other moms in the community they are finding out how easy it is to invite them to come to church. And they are amazed that moms are coming!
People in your community are waiting for invitations. More than you think! Quite often, we are surprised to discover their willingness to hear a gospel message.
When Praise and Proclaim Ministries partners with congregations to train members how to utilize a methodology and approach to proclaim the gospel, we provide them an opportunity to put their training into action by going out into the “roads and country lanes” to knock on doors. Most people politely provide excuses. We also come across families who rejoice in the invitation. Some have moved into the area and are looking for a new church. Some feel that it is time for them to go back to church. Another family may be going through a crisis and are looking for help and solutions. The Lord provides divine appointments to bring a face from church and a personal invitation to “come to the banquet.”
Jesus reminds us that many people are going to provide excuses not to come. In the story Jesus told, people who received the first round of invitations rejected them. They probably were friends or relatives. They were probably people who were deemed most likely to accept an invitation to come to a great banquet. Like the man preparing the banquet, we are disappointed, hurt, or angry when people reject invitations to come to church. They don’t know what they are missing nor fathom the eternal consequences of rejection.
Christ commissions believers to not judge how we think a person will respond or be surprised when rejected, but extend an invitation anyway.
It is Christ’s desire for the banquet room in heaven to be full, that ought to be our desire as well. And it will probably take many invitations. As Christ’s servants, believers eagerly and confidently extend invitations because by faith, we have already tasted and seen that God is merciful and good.
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