God’s Heart for The Poor – Luke 14
What is God’s heart for the poor? I believe we get an inside view as we consider one of Jesus’ teachings about The Kingdom of God in Luke 14. Jesus gives some very practical instruction which runs contrary to conventional wisdom.
“12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14
Consider the society into which Jesus is teaching. It is one where it is all about social position and the quest for power. I needed to invite someone to come to my banquet so that I could gain influence within my dealings with them. The idea was that in order for me to get on top and to stay there and to find the zone of “God’s blessing” as it looked in terms of finances, position and status – I needed to invite people to parties who could later have something to offer me.
Jesus’ teaching here shows just how upside down The Kingdom life is. His instructions is for them to invite the powerless to the banquet rather than the powerful. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to the banquet. Really Jesus? You expect me to waste my potential for influence, my expensive drink and my delicious food on those who cannot repay me anything? You expect me to extend a hand to those who have absolutely nothing to extend back to me? These people don’t deserve this kind of treatment – this kind of activity is sheer foolishness.
But, consider Jesus’ words – “and you will be blessed.” The upside downness of this activity shows us that there is more at stake than playing by the rules of power and control as our world knows it. It goes beyond those who are deserving or those who can somehow reciprocate and it cuts straight to the true “Blessing” which comes from God as we give ourselves away. Today we still struggle with this idea of blessing. We see “God blessing us” as having belongings and influence and money…yet Jesus seems to point towards a blessing that is delayed to the resurrection that we receive by actively engaging Him among the vulnerable and fringe people here and now.
Then, Jesus gives us an even deeper look into God’s heart as He tells a parable of what The Kingdom of God is like. He draws His audience in by telling of the banquet – the image of the Kingdom that had long been awaited. Luke continues,
“ 15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
Jesus deeply offends His audience with these words. He begins to share God’s heart in looking beyond those who “deserved” entry into The Kingdom and instead going to those who were the cast offs within society. Many of the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame were seen to be in the situation they were in because of either their own sins or the sins of their ancestors. They were outside of God’s blessing and it was their fault. Now, Jesus says that the invitation goes out to them. The invitation is going out to the broken and discarded because they are in a position of responding. Many who deserved the invitation are too otherwise occupied to respond. Their poverty of seeking after other sources of fulfillment keep them from responding to His Kingdom. But, those who are in poverty and know it respond to the invitation and grab ahold of it.
What is God’s heart? God is for the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. He sends the invitation out to them to come and eat with Him. At the same time His heart is that all of us would know True Blessing…the one that finds blessing in the spending of ourselves as we actively invite the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame to share in our lives.