Luke 14:12-14, Dinner Invitation Etiquette and the Grace of God

Last night while reading through Luke 14 with some Greek tutor students, I was struck by something Jesus said to the host of the dinner he attended. Jesus told him, “Whenever you should hold a meal or dinner, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, or your wealthy neighbours since they might invite you in return, and you might be repaid” (v. 12). Instead, Jesus tells him to invite the crippled, the maimed, the blind, and the poor — those who have no means to repay the gift of hospitality (v. 13). Jesus declares to him that “you will be blessed because they do not have [the means] to repay you, for you will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14).

This resembles exhortations Jesus gave elsewhere, such as Luke 6:32-36,

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Or like Jesus’ instruction on acts of righteousness in Matthew 6:1-4,

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

From Jesus’ words in Luke 14, it seems that there is no repayment (from God) for giving to those who have the means to give back to you. Repayment is received from the friend or relative or neighbour who does for you what you did for him. But God repays those who give out of grace with no hope of repayment. From the contexts of Luke 6 and Matthew 6, it is also clear that God rewards those who do these good things in secret rather than in plain view for the sake of a pat on the back, or the elevation of one’s status among his/her peers.

This is a big deal. Jesus wants us as his followers to be looking out for those who are truly down and out, to get our love working and acting in the real world. Inviting such people means also that your time is spent with them, and not only your food consumed by them. This isn’t just food-bank-filling. This is ministering truly and personally to those who have real need.

And in a very real way, this action is a picture of what God, in Jesus, already has done, and does each day, for us. He has given the gift of his love, his grace, his Fatherhood, his Son, the promise of his enduring presence — all things we can never repay. In this way in all of these passages, Jesus calls us to imitate the way the Father gives to us: out of grace.

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