A couple of weeks back, the Gospel lesson read in the worship service had to do with Jesus at a dinner party (Luke 14:714). Especially Luke’s telling of the life of Jesus, Jesus was regularly sitting down to eat. In this particular passage, he was the guest in the home of a religious leader, a Pharisee.
Jesus gives some usual instructions to his disciples: When you are invited to a wedding banquet, he says, don’t sit down at the head table, the table of honor. Instead, go take a seat on the other side of the room, near the kitchen. Take the lower seat rather than, the more privileged one. Then, when the host or the bride and groom come along and see you, they might invite you to move up to a better seat.
Jesus went on to say still more: When you throw a luncheon or dinner, don’t invite just your rich friends and relatives, expecting that they will return the favor. When you throw a banquet, don’t expect to be repaid by the guests you invited. Forget about reciprocity. Instead, make a point to go and invite the very people that could not possibly return the favor. They will be the ones that benefit the most from your generosity as a host.
We tend to assign worth based on the wealth and resources that someone has accumulated. Jesus tells us that these are not factors in how God determines our importance. Jesus instead lifts up humility as a virtue. He invites us to consider the needs of others over our own needs. He challenges us to be willing to take a lower status rather than claim a higher one. The practice of including others and extending hospitality are markers that matter to God.
If ever you think that being a follower of Jesus is easy, just consider what Jesus said and the path he chose in life. He regularly presents us with a challenge to think in new ways and turn our expectations upside down. But he also provides us with a promise: “I will be with you.” And he gives us the Holy Spirit to be our helper.
Grace and peace,