Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner…

Luke 14:1, 7-14 (Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16)

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate (Proverbs 8:13).

All those who are arrogant are an abomination to the Lord; be assured, they will not go unpunished (Proverbs 16:5).

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit among the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud (Proverbs 16:18-19).

Haughty eyes and a proud heart—the lamp of the wicked—are sin (Proverbs 21:4).

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor (Proverbs 15:33).

Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble (Proverbs 25:6-7).

Clearly, humility is greatly praised in the Jewish Wisdom tradition typified by the book of Proverbs – just as hubris and arrogance are roundly condemned. But don’t for a minute conclude that this tradition – and Jesus’ message in Luke 14:1, 7-14 – falls only into the category of “be nice!” Sure, there’s a whole lot of table etiquette going on at the wedding banquet which Jesus attended:

When he [Jesus] noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you (14:7-10).

Yet, in Luke’s Gospel, the table is more than a place to eat, it’s a place where Jesus teaches (22:24-36), chastises (11:37-41), breaks bread with the marginalized (7:39), and shares his parables (16:21). No wonder Jesus exclaims, “The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Luke 7:34). And the table has an even deeper meaning – that of an image of Kingdom fellowship (“…so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” 22:30); and of the resurrected Jesus (“When he [Jesus] was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.” 24:30).

Yet, we can’t lose sight of the notions of hubris and humility. Hubris creates a them-us situation (it divides); and it seeks or demands something from the other (a quid pro quo). So, hubris and arrogance diminish or exploit relationships. And, they create an underclass of people who are thereby left out. We see that in the four-part riff that Jesus uses in verses 12-13:

“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.

The first four (friends, brothers, relatives, rich neighbors) have the wherewithal to repay the generosity that is shown to them. Indeed, in a culture of “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours,” they can advance the careers or social standing of anyone who shows them appropriate deference or kindness. The other four (poor, crippled, lame, blind) cannot return the favor. The poor person lacks the resources, and the others the power or capability. Therefore, any generosity shown towards the latter four will conspicuously lack any kind of material reciprocity. To the world, one would be throwing time, money and influence away inviting ones such as these to a meal. Indeed, the Qumran community (of Dead Sea Scroll fame) explicitly name these four as ones forbidden to eat with the community.

So, is the meaning of this teaching of Jesus that such an eating and drinking is a sign of love (agape)? Yes, it is. Yet more than that, it is a sign of the heavenly banquet at which the invitation and the seating arrangement comes at the will of the “Host.” So, not only will this attitude of humility be a blessing (“And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” vs. 14) it will be a foretaste of the feast to come: a symbol of heaven on earth.


Pastor Ken+