This is really sad… Many years ago I was deeply convicted while preaching through the book of Luke. When I got to Luke 14:12-14, I knew what I was supposed to do. I planned on doing it. I just never got around it. Sound familiar?
In this passage, Jesus is speaking to the man who was hosting Him for a banquet…
He 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. 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.”
It seems like Jesus is saying we should literally have banquets for those who could never repay us. It seems like it is good to have feasts for those who are rejected by others. Yet I have spent my life taking friends out to dinner who often pay me back, inviting them to my house for dinner and letting them return the favor. Sure, I gave money to rescue missions to feed the poor for me. But I had no idea the blessing that would come from doing it myself!
On Sunday night, some friends and I are throwing an elaborate banquet for people we have met in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco. The banquet hasn’t even happened yet, and I’m already overwhelmed by the blessings I have received.
1. The excitement I see in the faces of people when I tell them I want them to come to a banquet. The shock when I tell them I’m bringing in chefs who will cook WHATEVER they would like to eat. Steak? Fish? Lobster? Anything.
2. The women blushing and teary-eyed when I tell them my wife will take them shopping (Lisa’s spiritual gift) before the banquet. “I haven’t gone shopping in years!” is a typical response.
3. The fun of going the extra mile in making this memorable- getting photographers, decorations, live entertainment, expensive gifts… We do this for donors, why not the least of these?
4. The opportunity to tell them that this is a tiny glimpse of the riches He has in store for us in Heaven.
5. The joy of resembling God as I offer grace to people who may reject it. I have worried way too much about giving to people who may not appreciate my gifts or may squander them like a prodigal. There’s certainly a time for prudence, but don’t miss out on opportunities to pour out undeserved favor.
The biggest thrill came yesterday as I was explaining the upcoming event. I was giddy as I spoke about how these people have no idea what they are walking into. I want to have so many surprises waiting for them when they arrive. Then it hit me: Is this how God feels about the banquet He is preparing for me? Is He thinking, “Francis has no idea what I have in store for Him!” I have always struggled with understanding and deeply believing His grace towards me. God is using this event to put me in His shoes for a moment. I can taste a bit of the thrill of being a grace giver.
Who knows? Maybe those invited will get busy and decide not to come. Then we’ll have to pull others off the street, clean them up, and bring them in. That might end up being a blessing as well (Luke 14:15-24).