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." (NIV)
It may be my favorite snippet from Jesus. Just a brief reflection he offered when at a party table himself, thanks to the invitation of a wealthy religious leader of his day.
I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in his interpretation:
Then he turned to the host. "The next time you put on a dinner, don't just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You'll be—and experience—a blessing. They won't be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God's people." (The Message)
No telling how many times I've read the words. But I just saw something new and extremely important about this story.
No doubt, Jesus is seated at a table with his host for the party meal. As he observes the assembly of invited guests, he offers his suggestion about the guest list the next time his rich friend throws a party. He encourages his friend to invite people who don't often, if ever, receive an invitation to a party.
But, here's what I hadn't thought of until now.
Jesus doesn't have in mind a soup line or a giveaway effort.
What he imagines is exactly what he is enjoying. A sit-down dinner at the host's table. He's talking about serious friendship and fellowship! He wants his friend to discover the joy of the poor.
The reciprocity will not come in the form of any future invitation to come to their homes for a "pay back" party.
No. The payback will be in the event itself and in the eternal scheme of things to come.
I love it.
We dare not settle for the confines of controllable charity. We must dive into the deeps of genuine community engagement.
There we will find the true joy!