When people invited Jesus for dinner, they needed to be ready for an “in your face” confrontation.
You will recall the dinner (Luke 14.1-6) where Jesus was invited by a prominent Pharisee to join his friends for dinner.
They invited him to examine his beliefs, but ended up being put to the test themselves.
A Parable About Status
The leading citizens of the community invited Jesus to a dinner, motivated by a desire to expose him and his teachings as false.
Jesus used the occasion to teach a lesson on humility.
— Luke 14.7-10 – When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable.
“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host;
“And the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place.
“But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you.”
The first century world was dominated by an “honor/shame” culture.
Honor was so important in Rome that the rich paid persons to come to their homes simply to “sing their praises” each morning.
That practice may seem strange, unless you watch Instagram or TicTok and observe the way that people parade themselves for the attention of viewers.
I think Jesus was being sarcastic with his advice, but it was sarcasm with a powerful message.
What is the value of hidden service?
In his book, “Ego is the Enemy,” Ryan Holiday writes:
“The ego we see most commonly goes by a more casual definition: an unhealthy belief in our own importance. Arrogance. Self-centered ambition…
“It’s that petulant child inside every person, the one that chooses getting his or her way over anything or anyone else. The need to be better than, more than, recognized for, far past any reasonable utility — that’s ego.
“It’s the sense of superiority and certainty that exceeds the bounds of confidence and talent.”
When we consciously take the back seat, willingly play “second fiddle,” and serve without recognition, we confront our self-centered ego.
In addition, Jesus taught that “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Luke 14.11).
It is far easier to choose a path of humility than to necessitate having God humble us.
In the honor/shame environment of Rome the people who sang the praise of the noble persons received small gifts of food or money in return for their services.
First century Israel operated within the honor/shame culture of the time, but I have never read of the kind of excesses that were prevalent in Rome.
The honor/shame beliefs that were present in Israel required favors to be repaid. Dinners were to be repaid with equal or better dinners by the guests.
Jesus counseled his followers to avoid the honor/shame culture.
— Luke 14.12-14 – He said also 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, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
“And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
I don’t think Jesus advocated top-down charity, where the more powerful person makes the recipient of his kindness feel of lesser value.
I do think Jesus advocated the practice of spiritual friendship.
There may be wealth inequality between the two, but there is not an inequality of experience and wisdom.
If we are willing to listen and value less fortunate friends, we will discover a wealth of insights that they will give us.
If you have a chance, become a spiritual friend with someone who can’t repay the cost of a meal or Starbucks coffee. Your life will be enriched by friendship with this person.
Rudy Ross and I have a YouTube video on this passage. You will benefit from insights from Rudy, who is a Jewish follower of Jesus, an excellent Bible student, and a lover of God.
The video can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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