“12He 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. 13But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.'”
One of the things most societies value is revenge. We may not like to use the word “revenge” but it’s true. When someone commits a wrong they need to be paid back for what they’ve done (see the movie Payback for example). What goes around comes around, right? Conversely, if you do good things then you will receive good things in return. It’s a nice, simple, equitable system that the cosmos has provided us with.
Unfortunately, you can’t apply that model to reality. People suffer unjustly all the time. 27 million women and children are in slavery due to human trafficking – are they just getting what they deserve? 163 million orphans wander the world’s streets or find themselves in orphanages – did they earn that? You can’t look at the world’s issues through the lens of karma, you’ll be contradicted over and over again.
So, what does Luke 14:12-14, quoted above, have to do with payback? Jesus crushes the idea that you get what you deserve. Let’s look at the two types of people in this passage to draw out this truth:
1. The people doing the blessing. Jesus is telling his rich audience to bless others with their wealth. Even more than that, He’s telling them to go out of their way to be a blessing to the disabled who can do them no good in return. He’s not just telling them to help out the people that happen across their path; He’s telling them to find the sufferers who are in need of help!
2. The people receiving the blessing. This other category is made up of people who are absolutely penniless as well as physically incapable of caring for themselves. They will wither and die unless someone comes to them and shows them mercy.
Now let’s consider: do you think that this passage is predominantly about Jesus giving His audience an ethic? As in, you need to act like this in order to be “repaid at the resurrection of the just.” OR do you think Jesus is predominantly trying to communicate a dynamic of the gospel? Both are true, but I asked which one was predominant.
The only way you can live out the ethic described here is if Jesus already lived it out for you. The good news is not that you need to give to poor people in order for God to accept you. The good news is that even though you were poor, Jesus made the biggest sacrifice in the cosmos so that you could be seated in the heavenly places in Him! And now that He has wrapped you in His grace, you can show that kind of love to the world. You are free to give to those who cannot repay you.
Here is the main point I want us to see in Luke 14:12-14:
Gospel-motivated love is characterized by joyful sacrifice for those who have no way to pay back.
Jesus is forcing us to look at the kind of love that He has shown to us. And by getting us to grab a hold of that love, He knows what kind of life we will live. So let us together look to Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
May you be so overjoyed by all Christ has done that giving to those who cannot repay only serves to increase your joy!
For His glory and fame,