“Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind”

In Luke 14:1,7-14, Jesus helps us set our priorities on who to serve and by what standards.

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.

He told a parable to those who had been invited,
noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet,
do not recline at table in the place of honor.
A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him,
and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say,
‘Give your place to this man,’
and then you would proceed with embarrassment
to take the lowest place.
Rather, when you are invited,
go and take the lowest place
so that when the host comes to you he may say,
‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’
Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table.
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled,
but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Then he said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

When I first read this passage from the Gospel of Luke, it took my breath away. Jesus continually calls on us elsewhere in the Gospels to make sacrifices on behalf of others, in particular to do things to benefit the least among us, saying this is what else we must do to enter the Kingdom of heaven. There are plenty of people who say they obey the commandments, although that is known only by them and by God Himself, but that isn’t enough. We must take care of one another, and by one another He doesn’t mean just our family and friends — even pagans, even atheists, even people with no opinion on faith at all, do that. No, He means we must take care of others in need all around us. And here this passage He names the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, although I’m sure He means many more than that.

We live in troubling times. It’s a time when it has become all right among many to shame these least among us and let them fend for themselves and even call them out in public. Some of these people even try to use the Word of God to enable this kind of abuse. But this reading disproves them.

God loves us — each of us, regardless of our abilities or our disabilities, regardless of our wealth or our poverty, regardless of our health or our sickness. And He created us not to be unto ourselves but to be among one another, to aid each other. Jesus’ greatest commandments are to love God and to love one another. What greater gift of love is there than to serve one another?

And the greatness of your act of kindness is that you do it not because you can be repaid for it by the person receiving the kindness but precisely because you cannot be repaid by them. “For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous,” says Jesus. Interesting word at the end: righteous. Some believe being righteous means you hold yourself above others in observing God’s laws. The question is, can you be held by God as meeting His standards for the greatest of His laws?

 

 

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