A LESSON IN HUMILITY
INVITED GUESTS MAKE EXCUSES
After he has healed the man suffering from dropsy, Jesus is still at the house of the Pharisee. Jesus observes other guests choosing prominent places at the meal, and he uses this as an opportunity to teach a lesson about humility.
“When you are invited by someone to a marriage feast,” Jesus says, “do not recline in the most prominent place. Perhaps someone more distinguished than you may also have been invited. Then the one who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Let this man have your place.’ Then you will proceed with shame to take the lowest place.”—Luke 14:8, 9.
Jesus next says: “When you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the man who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, go on up higher.’ Then you will have honor in front of all your fellow guests.” This is much more than simply displaying good manners. Jesus explains: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:10, 11) Yes, he is encouraging his listeners to cultivate humility.
Then Jesus states another lesson for the Pharisee who invited him—how to provide a dinner that has real merit with God. “When you spread a dinner or an evening meal, do not call your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors. Otherwise, they might also invite you in return, and it would become a repayment to you. But when you spread a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and you will be happy, because they have nothing with which to repay you.”—Luke 14:12-14.
It is natural to invite friends, relatives, or neighbors to a meal, and Jesus is not saying that this is wrong. He stresses, however, that providing a meal for the needy, such as the poor, crippled, or blind, can bring a rich blessing. Jesus explains to his host: “You will be repaid in the resurrection of the righteous ones.” A fellow guest concurs, saying: “Happy is the one who dines in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 14:15) He sees what a privilege this would be. However, not all have such appreciation, as Jesus goes on to illustrate:
“A man was spreading a grand evening meal, and he invited many. He sent his slave out . . . to say to the invited ones, ‘Come, because everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I bought a field and need to go out and see it; I ask you, have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I bought five yoke of cattle and am going to examine them; I ask you, have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, and for this reason I cannot come.’”—Luke 14:16-20.
Those are weak excuses! A man normally examines a field or livestock before the purchase, so it is not urgent to look at them afterward. The third man is not preparing to marry. He is already married, so that should not prevent him from accepting an important invitation. On hearing these excuses, the master angrily tells his slave:
“Go out quickly to the main streets and the alleys of the city, and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.” After the slave does so, there is still room. The master then tells his slave: “Go out to the roads and the lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I say to you, none of those men who were invited will taste my evening meal.”—Luke 14:21-24.
Yes, what Jesus is saying truly confirms the words of one of his fellow guests, who said: “Happy is the one who dines in the Kingdom of God.”