Luke 14:7-14: “A Place at the Table, Part 1”
“And He began speaking a parable to the invited guests when He noticed how they had been picking out the places of honor at the table, saying to them, ‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both shall come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man, and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.
“But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher,’ then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.’
“And He also went on to say to the one who had invited Him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return, and repayment come to you. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed since they do not have the means to repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:7-14, NASB).
In 1965, when the United States was just beginning to get involved in the Vietnam conflict and the stirrings of campus protests were beginning to be an ember that would soon turn into flames of revolt and violence, a song written by Burt Bacharach appeared on the pop charts in competition with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Elvis, the Rolling Stones, the Mamas and the Papas, and a slew of one-hit wonders. That song was entitled, “What the World Needs Now Is Love” and was sung by a well-known artist at the time named Jackie DeShannon. The song was a plea for people to concentrate on the wild concept of learning to get along and treating each other with respect and decency in a loving manner. Would that we would find and listen to it in this day of rage and anger towards everybody and anything.
This is not a plug for an old song, but to stop and consider that even some secular music can present a worthwhile concept, and I dare say needs to be heard and applied by many in the Christian world who could use a lesson in real compassion and less on personal status or “anointing” or whatever the evangelical catch phrase might be now.
I have been a Christian nearly fifty years, and I must tell you that what I am seeing in the evangelical world does not resemble what the Scriptures describe as genuine Christ-like faith or behavior in a lot of people. I see little godly character and sense of humbleness before the LORD and our brethren, nor do I hear of many sermons that emphasize the holiness of God and the need to repent and surrender to Christ for salvation from an all too real hell. Much of what passes for preaching today seems more like a rally or sales seminar where you are the product ready to succeed. There is a lot of “me” centered, “met need,” and other thinking that elevates our egos and reduces God to a servant of our pleasures.
We have personalities in the evangelical world that dare not mingle with the “regular” brethren. They believe they have some kind of special “anointing” where we need to keep away from them, lest they lose it and rob us of a “Spirit-filled” message that may be nothing more than a “personal revelation from God and to sow a seed for blessing” diatribe.
I ran into one of these yokels several years ago when I lived in New Orleans. This speaker dressed like an Old Testament High Priest, had a long beard, used a lot of Hebrew in his presentation, but had some good points in his talk overall. I went up to him after the talk to try and tell him that I enjoyed what he had to say, only to be rudely rebuffed by the guy, who said that he “didn’t interact with the audience” and that I needed to “make an appointment with him” after the presentation if I wanted to say anything. Really, dude? All you did was to turn me off all your future presentations and work. I walked out and thanked the LORD that I was saved, because if I had not been, I would have never listened to any gospel presentation again.
Self-importance and egotism of any kind should never be in the life or example of a true child of God. When the Lord Jesus presented this teaching to his host and those at the table who had been busy trying to get the best spot at the celebration, he was gently but firmly rebuking them for their self-centeredness and belief that their status somehow gave some of them the right to sit anywhere they pleased in order to get attention. Jesus told them that this kind of attitude will only end in humiliation when the host tells the pompous guest to move somewhere else for another person who may be more important to the host’s family than him.
Jesus then told the host that when he had a celebration the next time, to do something different and “think outside the box” as far as it pertains to his hospitality. There were a lot of sick, lame, and poor folks in that part of the world, just as there is in all countries. Many of the poor were day laborers who fought to get any kind of employment they could to take care of themselves and their families. The lame and sick could not rely on state subsidies or a system of welfare to help them. The good graces of neighbors, friends, and the occasional benevolent stranger may get them a few coins now and then, but life in general was hard for anyone in the days of the Roman Empire who was not a noble, soldier, official, skilled tradesman, or had an inheritance.
Jesus told this host to skip inviting his friends to the next party, and instead invite “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame” of the area who could never repay the hospitality and honor given to them in this act of care and concern. Our LORD was telling this man and all who were there that everyone can come to the table and enjoy the bounty of God’s blessing. It does not matter who you are, where you are from, your color, economic status, education, family structure, or any perceived barrier we may put up to turn people who “don’t look right” away from the open arms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The first church that I served as pastor was in the “toe end” of the Louisiana peninsula that goes out to the Gulf of Mexico and was the next-to-last town in that region, surrounded by levees and the Mississippi River. I can recall having to stop in the middle of the state highway going there to let an alligator cross from one side of the swamp to the other. My kids thought it was the neatest thing they ever saw up to that time. However, numerous swamp tours with both my kids and their elementary school buddies tended to lessen the thrill as time passed. Living in New Orleans at that time was like being at a Donald Trump Rally. It was the greatest free show on earth. Back to my story.
Riverview Church had a grand total of 30 members on a good Sunday. The membership was comprised of shrimp fishermen, boat repairmen, contractors, laborers, a deputy sheriff and his family, and the local dentist. These were godly “salt of the earth” people who did not know a stranger and would bring in drifters and foreign sailors who had been left behind by their ships and had nowhere to go. We did not have a lot, but we fed a lot of hungry people, visited in the neighborhoods, looked out for one another, cared for each other’s kids, held revivals, and as Cajuns do, “passed a good time.”
I put together a playroom for my daughter, who was four at the time, and the church welcomed my son at his birth, making him the only member of Riverview’s “Cradle Roll.” Poor? Materially, yes, but not spiritually. Everyone had a place at the table, so to speak, and after three great years, we said our goodbyes with some tears as we went to a new field of service. Hurricane Katrina tore apart Riverview in 2005. The building does not matter. The fact of it all was that Jesus was welcome there, and so were His angels unaware.
I am so thankful that He has a place at His table for me and my family, and I believe that we will be there sooner than expected. If you are reading this and don’t know where you stand with God, I implore you to come to Him, ask for forgiveness of your sins, repent of them, and surrender your life to Jesus Christ TODAY. Your place is waiting. Do not let it be unoccupied.