How the Kingdom Humbles and Exalts
FOR WHOEVER EXALTS HIMSELF WILL BE HUMBLED part two
Intro: Luke 14 has 35 verses. The setting of the first 24 verses is a luncheon on the Sabbath day in the home of a prominent Pharisee. From this venue the Lord Jesus addresses four truths concerning table fellowship at dinner parties. This was a major part of the culture. Honor and shame were transacted at these gatherings. The four truths are easily outlined by four questions Christ seems to be asking. In vv.1-6, after healing a man suffering from edema at the synagogue, Jesus asks, “Can you see your bondage?” Our Lord’s compassionate act condemns the extra rules these religious leaders have imposed on the unsuspecting masses. The reasoning goes like this: “Isn’t there something wrong if you would have a man suffer for another day from painful swelling in his body rather than seeing him get relief on the Sabbath? Don’t you feel the misery of being enslaved to man-made requirements? In vv.7-11 Jesus asks, “Can you see your pride?” He was noting how the guests were choosing where they would sit at this luncheon. Your place at the table reflected your social status. The early arrivers dashed to the front seats. However, just like in our culture, the most important people tended to be “fashionably late.” This made for awkward moments at parties. Claiming a front seat only to be moved back by the host brought shame, not honor. Jesus warned against such hasty seat selections. They were only made in personal pride. It was better to sit farther back and receive the honor of being moved up. In today’s text, vv.12-14, Jesus asks, “Can you see your insulation?” Earlier Jesus had told people where to sit and where not to sit. Making a tense situation even more awkward, Christ turns to the host and tells him to revise his guest list the next time he throws a party.
Luke 14:12 Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.
Are you aware of how closed off you are to some of the people God cares about?
Jesus wants to press His host to see hospitality as an opportunity to be generous. There is a such a danger of getting caught in a pay-back cycle.
Whatever the occasion, “don’t call the people you usually call…”
When you are having a dinner party, He said, do not invite your friends only, or your family members, or the wealthiest family in town, because those people will probably return the invitation. They will remit your invoice, and then hand you one of their own.
The typical guest list is a natural one: (a) friends – people whose company you enjoy (b) brothers – those linked by blood (c) rich neighbors – those from whom you may gain an advantage. In each case, the favors will most likely be returned.
Leon Morris – If these are the only objects of his bounty, he will suffer the terrible fate of receiving return invitations!
Jesus observed an occasion on which hosting a luncheon was an act by which one person gained power over others and put them in his debt. All of us know the ugly face of generous gifts with strings attached.
The only selfless way to serve is to invite a guest who has nothing to offer except his need.
Luke 14:13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.
Obviously, Jesus was exaggerating to make a point. He loved His own family. He often ate with His friends. These relationships must be nurtured.
There is a place in the Christian life for hospitality that reciprocates. The very first church, which was poor and vulnerable, took this to an extreme.
Acts 2:44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
Acts 2:45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
But for many, this is as far as hospitality ever goes – extending it to our inner circles.
So Jesus put all of His emphasis on inviting people who are in no position to invite us back. “Do not invite your friends only,” He was saying, “but also invite people who are down and out.”
This counsel fits nicely with the directions God gave Israel in Deuteronomy. For example, when they celebrated the Feast of Weeks, 50 days after Passover, also known as Pentecost, celebrating the end of the grain harvest, here is who God said to invite:
Deut 16:8 You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.
There were others beyond the family circle, ones with a touch-and-go livelihood – barely making it each day – who were to be included in their festive meals at the sanctuary.
“The poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind” – except for the poor, these were marked for exclusion from the priesthood. They could not serve in the Sanctuary. Their conditions kept them from the standard for holiness.
Lev 21:18 For any man who has a defect shall not approach: a man blind or lame, who has a marred face or any limb too long,
Lev 21:19 a man who has a broken foot or broken hand,
Lev 21:20 or is a hunchback or a dwarf, or a man who has a defect in his eye, or eczema or scab, or is a eunuch.
Lev 21:21 No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest, who has a defect, shall come near to offer the offerings made by fire to the Lord. He has a defect; he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.
Lev 21:22 He may eat the bread of his God, both the most holy and the holy;
Lev 21:23 only he shall not go near the veil or approach the altar, because he has a defect, lest he profane My sanctuaries; for I the Lord sanctify them.
Those attending the luncheon would have found the poor and the disabled to be deserving of their conditions: they were being punished for some sin (cf. John 9:1-3). God has withheld blessing from them.
They also conclude that dining with the poor or the blind would violate ritual purity laws. These people, along with the Gentile pagans, would the be last to enter the kingdom of God. Why should anyone invite them to a feast?
Christ instructs us to see and fellowship with those who feel the sting of unworthiness, who know the isolation of covenant curse.
The Lord was distinguishing between charity, which is a selfless act of love, and mere civility, which is nice, but it is a lesser virtue because it is more in our self-interest.
Civility has its place in life, but we should not make the mistake of thinking that we are being charitable when in fact we are only being civil. We must also not let our civility get in the way of true Christian charity.
How easy it is to help others who will help us in return, and how difficult it is to assist people who will be nothing but trouble.
If we are honest, we must admit that many of our relationships are based on quid pro quo, which is a fancy way of saying “If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
If you invite me over for dinner, I will return the favor. If you will watch my children for a while, then I will watch yours; and so forth.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this kind of mutual assistance, but there is too much self-interest involved for it to fully demonstrate the love and mercy of God.
If we want to show the love of Christ, we must go beyond doing good to people who do good to us. That may simply be another way of loving ourselves!
Instead, we need to give without any thought for what we may get in return.
A congregation may hear this passage preached and be convinced that we must expand our guest list as we increase our hospitality as a church.
It likely means developing meaningful relationships with people outside our community and welcoming awkward or difficult people into our fellowship?
But…isn’t that inconvenient? Won’t that be a drain on our resources? Yes and yes. And without the ministry of the Holy Spirit in us, it will be impossible. But we have the Holy Spirit!
This is a serious issue. Let us all examine ourselves. When was the last time I did something for someone who was not in any position to do something for me?
The Lord Jesus wills that we have His heart for people in need – the very same heart He had for us when He gave His life for our sins to reconcile us to God.
The guest list He gives – the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame, is the guest list of His own grace. These the very ones Jesus came to save!
If we receive them as our guests in Jesus’ name, then we will have God’s blessing.
Luke 14:14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
If you do something knowing it will be repaid, then it is a transaction rather than a gift.
Receiving a premature reward is the point here.
Matt 6:1 Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
Matt 6:2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
Matt 6:3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
Matt 6:4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.
Those who come to Jesus and hear His words are taught another way, the way of agapē, which gives, and gives freely without thought of return.
Agapē is an expression of faith that puts us in debt to God and His church.
Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Other debts can be repaid by other agents, but God alone repays agape – “at the resurrection of the just.”
In the kingdom, God is the host, and who can repay God?
Jesus is therefore calling for kingdom behavior, that is, inviting to table those with neither property nor place in society.
Since God is host of us all, we as hosts are really acting as guests: making no claims, setting no conditions, expecting no return.
There is a difference between providing for the needs of the poor and disabled and inviting them to dinner.
This is the NT’s understanding of hospitality.
Heb 13:1 Let brotherly love continue.
Heb 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.
Hospitality, then, is not necessarily having each other over on Friday evenings but welcoming those who are in no position to host us in return.
Nor does the text speak of sending food to anyone; rather, the host and the guest sit at table together. They see each other.
The clear sign of acceptance, of recognizing others as your equals, of cementing fellowship, is breaking bread together.
In the Christian community, no one is a project – there are no experiments – only loving strangers who are the targets of the Gospel.
Do you suppose Jesus was serious about opening church doors and homes in this way?
It is noteworthy that Jesus links “Last Things” with needs in the “here-and-now.” The next world should be our motivation to show others God’s love and care for them in this world.
Jesus’ host and his clan will have to break out of their warm cocoon of simply receiving pay-back invitations. There is so much more to hospitality than simply enjoying the admiration of your peer group.
illus: Bishop John Hooper (died 1555, martyred by “Bloody Mary”), is a fine example of what Jesus had in mind. John Foxe describes something he discovered when Hooper was Bishop of Worcester:
Twice I was, as I remember, in his house in Worcester, where, in his common hall, I saw a table spread with a good store of meat, and beset full of beggars and poor folk. And I asking his servants what this meant. They told me that every day their lord and master’s manner was to have customably to dinner a certain number of poor folk of the said city, by course, who were served four at a mess, with whole and wholesome meats. And when they were served (being before examined by him or his deputies, of the Lord’s prayer, the Articles of their faith, and the Ten Commandments), then he himself sat down to dinner, and not before.
We ourselves, must take care not to throw stones at Pharisees, since we can so easily slide into the mode of only spending our significant moments with congenial Christian friends.
Sometimes Jesus must push us out of our own insulation by reading a Bible text like this. We have to watch out that we don’t imprison ourselves in our own Christian ivory towers.
God will reward the truly generous who, like Himself, extend their generosity to the most unlikely of people and who have no thought of reciprocal gain for themselves.
The natural guest list is made up of people whose company we enjoy, along with relatives, and those from whom we stand to gain in some way.
We are told here to rewrite that guest list for fear that it might give us precisely what it has been drawn up to provide: a reciprocal benefit from our generosity. This cannot lead to God’s blessing on the day of accountability.
Such a guest list needs to be a list consisting of the people who would never be our natural guests, and who have no capacity to return the favor.
Then our hospitality will express true generosity of soul and will be like God’s own generosity, extended to the most unlikely of people.