Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."
It seems like a very peculiar topic that Jesus talks about in Chapter 14. He is sitting around a dinner table and talking about how to throw a banquet. It seems so peculiar that Jesus seems to be overly concerned with dinner party etiquette. In the verses right before this one, Jesus talks about where guests should sit at the table. The verses after speak about what to do if guests RSVP with regrets. In this Scripture Jesus talks about who you should invite. Why is Jesus so concerned with table manners?
Looking at this Scripture it seems pretty straight forward what His point is. Jesus is telling us that we need to show mercy to those people who are outcasts or less privileged—the down-trodden, the oppressed, the ones that are ignored in society. We should show kindness to them by welcoming them into our house, to our table for dinner. The meaning is clear.
Yet, I remember what a seminary professor said as he was teaching on this Scripture passage. “It’s all about breaking the cycle of reciprocity.
“Breaking the cycle of what?” was my reaction, as probably is yours right now.
Reciprocity, in this context, is basically when one does something kind or generous to another, where their sole motive for doing it is knowing that they will receive some benefit from it themselves. It means giving because you know you’re getting something in return.
But Jesus said, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, but when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And then he adds these words, “And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you.”
It also relates to the people who we hang around with. We all want to be around those for which we get a sense of personal satisfaction by being with them. Yet how do we break this “cycle of reciprocity” and reach out to others in our setting, to those on the “front porch,” as we talked about in a recent sermon series? How do we engage with others out of pure, selfless intentions?
Jesus had a solution for it. Simply be with people who can’t repay you—those who could never, ever return a favor. Step outside your box and build relationships with someone who you would not normally befriend. Take reciprocity out of the picture. Then the relationship can be totally void of strings attached or “what’s in it for me?”
And isn’t it in this same spirit that God offers His love and grace? No strings attached. There is nothing you have to do to gain it. Just accept it in the spirit it is offered—unburdened, unconditional, free of entanglements, of hidden agendas. And you will find that all these things that we perceive as being obligations as a good and faithful Christian become desires of your heart. This is the spirit in which we accept God’s gift of grace.