“Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” Luke 14:12-14
Jesus says some strange things. But, then, it would be a surprise if he did not have a view of reality that was in contrast to our own world view, distorted as it is. Our vision of reality is shaped and limited by the smallness of our egos. We see only as far as our mental horizons have been developed. God sees everything, all time and all space, with a clarity that we cannot know. A message like this one may shock some, it may be incomprehensible to others, but its importance for our salvation is immeasurable.
Who is it, specifically, that Jesus is addressing in this passage? It is a Pharisee, but not just any Pharisee. It is “one of the leading Pharisees,” a man used to attention and sure of his own self-importance. He is one who would invite only the well-healed, the important, or the most interesting to his home for a meal. He would, like so many of us, invite people to a meal expecting that such a favor would be returned, indeed, that it ought to be re-payed in like kind or better. Do we not think this way often ourselves? Do we not recognize the old “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” approach? Our generosity is so often calculated to get something in return. And more often than not we are disappointed and we feel injured, slighted, even abused. Jesus’ challenge in this passage is, then, stunningly strange to us. But Jesus’ sense of moral economy is infinitely broader and more whole than ours. His wisdom is beyond ours. And yet, he challenges us with this statement because he knows we are capable of coming to understand it gradually and even to the point of living out of it in our own lives.
Who does he ask us to invite into the circle of our hospitality? Not our family, not our friends, not the wealthy from whom we might gain the most material benefit in return. He tells us that it is better to invite those who are outcast, the unwanted, the unloved, the forgotten. To be specific he says: “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…” Why? Because, “…blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” He is simply asking us to do what he has done for us. Who are the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind? They are us. In comparison to Jesus, we are all of these. Yet he freely and generously invites us to share in the banquet of heaven. How could we thank him for such generosity? We have nothing that could match his gifts to us? There is only one thing we could do. We can learn to live out of the same generosity of spirit for those who the world has rejected. We can open the homes of our hearts and the spaces of our own homes to the despised and rejected. Why? Because our hope is not in the things of this world, but in the promise of the next.SKM: below-content placeholder