Post Series on Luke 14:12-24:
- Do You Want to Be Repaid at the Resurrection of the Just? (Luke 14:12-14)
- Do You Want to Eat Bread in the Kingdom of God? (Luke 14:15)
- Do You Want to Taste God’s Banquet? (Luke 14:16-24)
One Sabbath, Jesus dined at the house of a high-ranking Pharisee. The Pharisees were watching Jesus carefully, and Jesus took the opportunity to engage them about the nature of the Kingdom of God (Luke 14:1-6). Jesus began by challenging the status-seeking of the guests. The guests had come to stake out their place in high society, and the main way of claiming their spot at the top of the social structure was to sit at the highest place possible, near to the host himself.
Jesus, however, told them that they ought to seek out the lowest place, since “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:7-11). Jesus reversed their expectations by reminding them that the only status that would count in eternity was the status afforded them by God himself. So, if they wanted God’s approval, they had better not work to exalt themselves in the eyes of other people, but to humble themselves and wait for God to exalt them at the proper time.
And to be sure, Jesus practiced what he preached. During his human lifetime, he humbled himself to the point of death, waiting upon his Father to exalt him highly, bestowing upon Jesus the name which is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11). When Jesus told the guests to take the lowest spot, he was speaking as someone who had mastered the art of lowly servanthood.
The Kingdom of God and Party Invitations
But then, after he had challenged the guests who had come to the dinner party, Jesus began to challenge the host himself:
12He [Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
As the host of a party, the guests you invite are a direct reflection on your own status and significance. If the President of the United States throws a party, the most powerful and influential people in the world will eagerly come. If I were to throw a party and invite the same people, however, I probably wouldn’t even receive an RSVP politely declining—the powerful and influential would likely ignore my invitation altogether.
So, shrewd party hosts understand intuitively that their invitation is an investment. By inviting someone, you extend to them a favor that you can reclaim at some point in the future. Perhaps your guests will invite you to their own party in the future (expanding or reinforcing your social status), or perhaps they will do something other favor for you when you really need it. Regardless, though, you want to be strategic about the people you invite so that you can receive a high return on your invitation investments.
Strangely, though, Jesus tells his guests that getting a return from your invitation would be a bad thing: “lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid” (Luke 14:12). Why would Jesus oppose being repaid?
In fact, Jesus doesn’t oppose being repaid, but he wants to raise our expectations on repayment. In our minds, the highest, most valuable favors would come from the most socially significant people in our midst. In Jesus’ mind, however, the best repayment would come from God himself, and God is not impressed when we throw parties to puff up our own status and significance.
So, Jesus tells us to do the unthinkable, from society’s perspective. Instead of throwing parties to benefit yourself by inviting the “right” people, why not throw parties to benefit those who cannot benefit you in this life? Why not throw parties for those who are poor, crippled, lame, or blind—the social outcasts—in order to please God, who cares about the weakest people?
Now, we should be very clear here. Jesus isn’t telling us that we can earn our salvation by doing a particular set of good works by throwing the right kind of parties. Salvation comes by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone.
Instead, Jesus is describing what it looks like to live by faith. If we genuinely want God’s repayment more than we want the repayment of societal elites, then we ought to begin to adjust our lives accordingly. Rather than pursuing high society, we will start living toward the resurrection of the just.
Do You Want to be Repaid at the Resurrection of the Just?
But at the end of the day, how you live our life (whether when you assign party invitations or do your jobs or care for your family) depends on a single question: Do you want to be repaid at the resurrection of the just? Do you actually care what God thinks about you more than what the rich and influential think about you?
We have more that we need to learn about evaluating our own hearts in light of this question, and Jesus has more to teach. Tomorrow, we’ll continue the story.