Who are you inviting for dinner? It matters, you know!

There are parts of the Bible that challenge me deeply every time I read them! They are revolutionary – they fly in the face of conventional social norms. I don’t know about you, but every time I encounter them I have a deep feeling that what they talk about holds a secret of rich and largely undiscovered blessing!
Here’s the passage like that I encountered again this morning during “Coffee with the Lord”…
“One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees… He said 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. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.’” (Luke 14:12–14 ESV)
What Jesus said that day to the “ruler of the Pharisees” runs so counter to customary social practices! The normal practice for us is to carefully form our guest lists to impress – to influence – to nurture advantageous connections. You invite me for dinner as an expression of friendship – my responsibility is to invite you to dinner in return. Then, if things go well with the extension of friendship, we’ll make some decisions about who pays the next time around… we’ll probably decide to “go Dutch treat” (each person paying their own tab). We rarely invite “those who cannot repay us.” The social rule of the day is reciprocity… You invite me and them I’m expected to invite you. Once in awhile at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years we break out of the norm, but rarely as a matter of habit or normal practice. And I am convinced that as a result we miss a rich and satisfying blessing opportunity!
The question is… What if we are NEVER repaid? What if there is NEVER reciprocity? The answer is, we’ve just got to trust the Lord… He says, “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just!” – the biggest, grandest, most prestigious banquet of all, “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9)
I had parents who really worked hard to put this principle – this blessing opportunity – into practice. We NEVER spent a Christmas alone! Mom and Dad ALWAYS shared a wonderful Christmas or New Years meal at our house with someone less fortunate! (And we were cautioned… “You boys must let their children pay with your toys or they will be reclaimed and you will not have the privilege of playing with those toys in the future.”) Tough love, eh? But it was good spiritual training for the Bartel boys! As an aside… we NEVER knew who Dad would invite to share Sunday dinner at our house. New people who visited our church were at the very top of his invitation list (and Dad was a layman, not the preacher).
I think I know what you’re thinking… Dr. Bartel, do you have this one down? How good – how consistent – are you at practicing what this passage teaches? I gotta tell you, I’m still working on this kingdom principle! Every time I read about it in my Bible I am deeply challenged! I desire to discover the blessing opportunity it provides! I want payday – “the resurrection of the just” and “the Marriage Supper of the Lamb” to be extra special events in my “eternal life”!! Don’t you?!

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