SET-1: Season of Kaitha
The keywords in this gospel passage are humility and charity. Jesus practised what he preached. While participating in a Pharisee’s banquet, Jesus taught how a disciple should be humble to inherit an exalted position at the eternal banquet in heaven. The advice of Jesus to the host was to invite the poor who cannot return any favour to him. Then God will reward for such service to the less fortunate. Like the advice Jesus gave to Zebedee’s sons, let us focus on participating in Jesus’ mission. Then the recognition would follow on time.
Conduct of Invited Guests and Hosts
(Luke 14:7) Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for he had noticed how they tried to take the places of honor. He said, (8) “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited, (9) and your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you: ‘Please give him your place.’ Then in shame you will go to the lowest seat! (10) Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you: ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honor for you in the presence of all the other guests. (11) For everyone who makes himself great will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be made great.”
(12) Jesus also addressed the man who had invited him and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers, relatives and wealthy neighbors. For surely they will also invite you in return and you will be repaid. (13) When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. (14) Blessed are you then, because they cannot repay you; you will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright.”
Jesus joined a banquet on a Sabbath at the house of a leading Pharisee. The people in attendance were scrutinizing Jesus because of the clash between Jesus and his opponents on the Sabbath observance. During that banquet, Jesus healed a man with dropsy even though the Scribes and the Pharisees did not answer to his question of whether it was lawful to cure on the Sabbath. Jesus disagreed with their lack of charity as a part of Sabbath observance. He made use of the dinner setting, to instruct the guests and the host on the need for humility and charity to inherit God’s Kingdom.
(Lk 14:7) Jesus then told a parable to the guests, for he had noticed how they tried to take the places of honour. He said…
Just as people were observing Jesus on his unusual conduct, Jesus was watching the guests’ pompous behaviour. They were competing for places of honour like his disciples, who had been arguing for a prominent position in the Kingdom of God. Jesus was not against an eligible person taking his seat of honour. However, ineligible people were trying to occupy the prominent seats. The host had to ask them to change the seat to respect the distinguished guests. This would cause public humiliation for the persons concerned. Jesus’ intention was not to teach them how to behave at banquets but to give a moral lesson on humility for his disciples. The behaviour in a secular situation reflects the spirituality of the person.
(8) “When you are invited to a wedding party, do not choose the best seat. It may happen that someone more important than you has been invited”
For the Jewish wedding banquets, people were reclining on cushions around a low-level table. The prominent persons were in the middle and others were on the two sides of a U-shaped table setting. Though the host would not pre-assign seats, the guests should know where to recline. Once the guests seated themselves, the host would come to confirm if all got their appropriate seating. The host might ask an inferior person who took a prominent seat to move to a lower-ranked seat in favour of a more honoured guest. So, Jesus said, since the guests are not aware of all the invitees, it is advisable to take a lower seat to avoid later humiliation.
(9) And your host, who invited both of you, will come and say to you: ‘Please give him your place.’ Then in shame you will go to the lowest seat!
It may so happen that the more prominent guest might make a late appearance. The host must honour him according to his rank. So, if someone has already occupied his seat, the host has to intervene for a seat change. That will cause humiliation for the one asked to move down. He might end up in an ordinary seat.
(10) Whenever you are invited, go rather to the lowest seat, so that your host may come and say to you: ‘Friend, you must come up higher.’ And this will be a great honour for you in the presence of all the other guests
It would be a public honour for a guest to be promoted by the host to a more prominent seat. If one would occupy the least prominent seat, there was no chance of shame and only opportunity for a higher position. Jesus said in Matthew 23:12: “whoever makes himself great shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be made great.” This is not a new teaching but Jesus’ adaptation of Proverbs 25:6-7. “Do not boast before the king or put yourself among the great. It would be better to be invited, ‘Come up here,’ than to be humiliated in the presence of the prince.”
(11) “For everyone who makes himself great will be humbled, and everyone who humbles himself will be made great”
There is no chance for exaltation by others, for a person who boasts himself. Whereas humble persons will receive the honour in secular and spiritual life. Jesus practised in life what he taught. Though Jesus could escape himself from the enemies any time, by the end of his public ministry he humbled himself to let his enemies crucify him with maximum disgrace, after which God the Father exalted him from the grave on the third day. When God selected Mary as the mother of the Saviour, she volunteered to serve Elizabeth.
Pride and boasting of oneself are considered undignified in secular life and sinful in the spiritual realm. In God’s eyes, pride and disregard for the less fortunate are sins. Jesus presented examples of proud characters such as a rich man in the story of the Rich man and Lazarus, the unreconciled elder son in the Prodigal Son story, and the Pharisee in the story of the Pharisee and Publican. The Pharisees were a proud group of people who considered themselves as a superior category. But their pride and indifference towards those ‘lower’ than themselves would lead to their humiliation in front of God.
(12) Jesus also addressed the man who had invited him and said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers, relatives and wealthy neighbours. For surely they will also invite you in return and you will be repaid”
Jesus turned his focus of discourse from the guests to the host. The Pharisees and Publicans had offered lunch and dinner for Jesus. All of them used to invite their friends, relatives, or people of their economic and social status. We also do the same. When we make a list of whom to invite for a banquet we host, we select people who had invited us for the dinner they hosted. Jesus finds no spiritual merit in such an invitation because it is self-rewarding.
Jesus taught the host that he should invite for the banquet those who do not have food to eat or cannot return any favour. Then the repayment would come from God. “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the LORD, And He will repay him for his good deed” (Prov 19:7).
(13) When you give a feast, invite instead the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind
Jesus taught and acted differently from the rabbis. In contrast to the widespread belief, Jesus considered “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” as dear to God. Though Jesus did not offer any dinner for such people, because he could not afford to do so, he did more than a banquet by healing them. So, besides offering food, Jesus wants us to offer help for all those who are physically, mentally, or economically weak. The best approach would be to help them resolve their problems with a developmental or self-help approach. Christian churches have been doing such missionary work down the centuries.
(14) Blessed are you then, because they cannot repay you; you will be repaid at the resurrection of the upright
Jesus offered a reward for all philanthropic acts in the life after death. Jesus confirmed this when he taught on the last judgement. “The King will say to those on his right: ‘Come, blessed of my Father! Take possession of the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world. For I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink…” (Mt 25:34-36).
1. Honour and respect are not something that we should demand or claim for ourselves. They will come now or later when others realize that we deserve them. A Christian’s expectation of reward for service is in heaven.
2. The society would often detest those who seek honour and those who complain of the lack of recognition. If we work for a reward in this world, the Lord will not give us credit for that in heaven.
3. Let us be humble and considerate to others so God would compensate for our humility and charity in the world to come. In the parable of the inconsiderate rich man and the humble Lazarus, their states were reversed in the hereafter.
4. Our hospitality and service just for the wage or recompense from people are not meritorious before God. So, let us find means to transform our resources as an investment for the afterlife by supporting the less fortunate so we can be at the right hand of Jesus at the last judgement.
5. Jesus said to his disciples who returned after their ministry: “Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the evil spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven” (Lk 10:20). More than the rejoicing at the success of our labour and honour from others, let us ensure that our names get into the Book of Life by our acts of mercy.