This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is from Luke 14:7-14. Jesus uses the parable of the wedding feast to counsel us about humility and blessing the poor.
7 When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 12 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. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Isn’t it fascinating that Jesus came not only to do such grand things as healing the sick, casting out demons and bringing salvation, but He also called attention to our attitudes about wealth, position and helping the poor? As in the parable, it is nice to be treated like royalty. I remember years ago that vendors would entertain me and my wife at 5-star hotels, where every need was taken care of, and every hotel attendant would reply to our thank you’s with “it’s my pleasure.” If you’ve stayed at a Ritz-Carlton or a Four Seasons hotel, you too know what if feels like to be pampered and treated like you are really important.
Jesus is referring to a wedding reception celebration in verses 7 through 11, and, as today, the prime guests of family and those in the wedding party have the best seats near the front, next to the bride and groom. The seating is positioned with a front-of-the-room focus, with those of importance closer to the center of activity. Sometimes those of up front get better service–beverage glasses constantly getting filled, meals served first while they are still hot–and they can hear the toasts and see all the fun interaction. However, I have also been a guest with very little connection to the wedding party. My seating was near the back and my table companions were a unique and sometimes strange mix of distant friends and co-workers. I usually fit in with this group better anyhow, and I enjoy the conversations with them more than those with the more ‘important’ people.
Most humans have insatiable egos; just as in Jesus’ time, we often want to be thought of as important, successful and wealthy. It is this attitude that Jesus is exposing in His light of revealing transparency. He is advising that we should not take our success or position, or lack thereof, too seriously, but that we should walk in humility, putting other people before us. Furthermore, He points out that true exaltation comes from the host, not from us, or from those around us, or from our financial wealth. In this Biblical example, Jesus is the host of the wedding feast, and He is saying sweetly, out of grace, that true value and blessings will come through relationship with Him, not through our egos.
Jesus does not conclude his discussion on this point, but on His command that when (not if) we gather people for celebrations, even just a common meal in our homes, we are to invite and honor “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” I’ll take the liberty to add to this list the immigrant (regardless of his/her legal status), the socially awkward (weird), and those with less or more wealth than you.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in His ‘for-us’ but selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the forty-fourth post in this series.