By Raymond Harris
Regarding Scripture: Luke 14.12-14
Note to the Reader – I encourage you to invest additional time reading the Book of Luke in conjunction with this article.
I Owe You
While the title I Owe You, may remind us of IOU, the focus of our article will not be finance. Instead, the intention of our focus is to look at the “tit for tat,” “one good turn deserves another,” “I’ll scratch your back, and you scratch mine” social philosophy under the light of Jesus’ teachings. It seems that we all have been trained to operate with this social etiquette. If someone does a kind deed, then we become a debtor to the kindness and, at least, maintain a mental record of their good deed with a personal intention of repaying that debt at a future date. But, it is also a matter of life that there are those who will “call in” those outstanding favors and get their proverbial back scratched in a moment of need. This protocol is reality, but will Jesus’ teachings affect our practice?
Don’t Look for Reciprocity
Our article this week is based on a teaching from Yeshua found in Luke 14.12-14. It is interesting to note that these three verses seem to be set in the context of Jesus having a meal at a Pharisee’s home.1 It is also fairly well known that Jesus confronts the Pharisees about a great many things: two of which are their understanding of Torah and their application of righteousness. It is also interesting that just prior to our article’s passage, there are several challenging statements about prominence.2 The Pharisees were a class of people who were markedly better off than the average Hebrew. They received recognitions and invitations that the average person would not. So it is of interest that Jesus says the following (CJB):
Yeshua also said to the one who had invited him, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors; for they may well invite you in return, and that will be your repayment. Instead, when you have a party, invite poor people, disfigured people, the crippled, the blind! How blessed you will be that they have nothing with which to repay you! For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Following his statement, one of the attendees offered what seems to be praise of Yeshua’s declaration of “no reciprocity”. While Jesus used this praise to teach concepts about God’s Kingdom, the real interest seems to be: why would an attendee to this meal offer an “at-a-boy” to this statement of Jesus? What Jesus stated seems to contradict conventional wisdom. If someone is unable to repay, perhaps it is a good deed to give them their needs, but invite them to a social event? Even in our current day, if the “less-than-sociable” are accepted to the event, they are placed in non grata locations. If in a large arena: the “nose bleed” section. If a huge downtown social engagement: just “down a block or two”. Whether we like it or not, there are social activities where some people who are not welcomed. Because of this, the response to Jesus statement brings interest.
Give without Reciprocity
Perhaps the greatest challenge to anyone is to not prejudge. Each of us makes assessments of persons prior to any actual communicative engagement. When this happens, one has prejudged. Prejudging, while something we all do, in and of itself is not wrong. It is when we become prejudiced that we have become something that we should not. It is this temperament that seems to be at the heart of Jesus’ statement.
Perhaps, the one who provided the “amen” to Yeshua’s statement understood that Jehovah is not a respecter of persons.3 So, while Jesus’ statement is not talking specifically about the characteristics of Jehovah, Jesus was a Rabbi, and Rabbi’s were (are) supposed to have teachings of holiness and righteousness. Therefore by extension, we can see how the response praises Jehovah and his Kingdom.
Yet, without noting the class of individuals mentioned by Jesus, the lesson may not reach its full impact. There are two areas in which Jesus spoke: 1) those whom to invite, and 2) those whom not to invite. Jesus stated not to invite the one’s who could offer reciprocity: friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. Instead, invite the underprivileged: the poor, the disfigured, the crippled, and the blind; because they do not have the power to reciprocate. It matters not the century or society, the people who cannot give in return are social outcasts. While the United States has done an admirable job in accomplishing occupational and social equality for these disadvantaged, Jesus is teaching that it is the responsibility of Jehovah’s people to do this.
Some individual Christians and churches attend better to this need than others, but as point-of-reflection, it begs the question: when was the last time that Jehovah’s people threw a party for the people mentioned by Jesus? Yes, there are soup kitchens. But when was the last time that, as Jesus stated, “a party” (a feast, an entertaining event) was given with the honored guests being those who cannot give back? Perhaps, I am ignorant of such events. Even so, those who have given will be repaid as Jesus taught, “at the resurrection of the righteous”. But is this not a tremendous event to which Jesus desires?
One of the greatest dilemmas that believers face in our “country of plenty” is that our government has become the provider of so much – not that our government should not represent the best of its people. But, one has to ask: have we, as the disciples of Jesus, missed a golden opportunity for reaching those whom God is seeking? May Jehovah bless us as we seek to do his will.