Summary: Jesus' challenge to the host in Luke 14, that he should not invite those who could serve his needs but those whose needs he could serve, challenges the worldly approach to human relationships.
Luke 14:1-14 "The Banquet"
The word "Stewardship" has gained an ugly reputation in Christian circles. It is frequently associated with congregational pleas for more money. The word has lost its wholistic dimension. Stewardship, or if you prefer, good management is no longer understood to be a natural and necessary response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We will look at stewardship from a new perspective. We will not view it as an object to be examined, dissected and defined. Instead we will look at it from the perspective of relationship--it is a relationship to be lived. Each Sunday during the series we will look at different texts. Two Biblical passages will echo through the five Sundays, though. The first is John 13:34, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you." The second is found in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew where Jesus says, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
Today's text takes place on the Sabbath. Jesus is walking to a Pharisee's home to have dinner with him. It must not have been a dinner between friends. Luke notes that the other Pharisees were watching him closely. While traveling to the dinner, Jesus comes across a man suffering from dropsy--a swelling of the body. The man does not ask to be healed, but Jesus heals him anyways. Jesus is defiant. People are more important than religious observances.
Throughout Jesus' ministry he breaks religious traditions and social mores to heal people and meet their needs. Jesus associates with women and sinners. He touches the lepers, women who are bleeding and even the dead. The message is clear--if someone is in need and we have the ability to minister to that need, then nothing, not even our own fear or reluctance, should keep us from helping the individual.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are to get involved. It is called relational or incarnational ministry. Jesus got involved in our lives (and continues to be involved). We are called to be involved in the lives of others. Our involvement is based not on pity for someone less fortunate that ourselves, but because we are of the same family.
When Jesus arrived at the dinner party he noticed that the guests would take the most prominent seat available. He makes comment on the situation. When we try to build ourselves up there are people who will attempt to put us down. Jesus' suggestion is to be humble.
We frequently yield to the temptation to consider ourselves better than others. We will find traits in others that cause us to think less of others. At the same time we see our personal traits and think that they demonstrate our superiority. This is not the path that Jesus calls us to follow.
Jesus teaches that we are all God's people. Contrary to some beliefs in the Old Testament there is not a special group that can be designated as God's Chosen People. The emphasis is on our unity. We are of one family called humans. We are much more like other people than we are different from them. At the same time, there is great diversity in God's kingdom and in the human family. Our calling as followers of Jesus is not to lose our identity and be like others, but rather to be accepting of others and their differences.
DINING WITH OTHERS
For me, the most difficult teaching in this text occurs when Jesus commented on who the Pharisee invited to the dinner. The guests were his friends, family and "network" those who could help him achieve his personal goals. Jesus suggests that instead of inviting the typical guest list we should invite the poor, crippled, lame and blind. We will be greatly blessed doing this.
We usually down play this teaching of Jesus, after all, we think, it doesn't have anything to do with our salvation. We usually find some reason not to follow it--without a background check we would be uncomfortable inviting complete strangers to our banquet. We could also make the excuse that other banquet guests would be uncomfortable, also. This was certainly the case in the video that we just watched.
Jesus' teaching does not appear to be an option, though. Jesus says, "When you give a banquet invite the poor ...." Jesus doesn't instruct his followers that if they should ever throw a banquet they might consider inviting the poor. If we are family, then we take care of each other--it is what families do.
It has been said that the greatness of the nation is not measured by its military might, its standard of living or its GNP. Rather, the greatness of the nation is measured by how it treats its poor. Perhaps we can use that same measuring stick on ourselves. Our greatness is not measured by how influential we are, how affluent we are or the level of our income. Instead, our measure of greatness is how we care for others--our family, friends, strangers and enemies.