If you’re a stranger to the world of social media, then consider yourself lucky not to have to endure one of its less pleasant aspects. I’m talking about event invites. Or, for that matter, requests to play online games. Mind you, some folks are legitimately discriminating with their requests. Others, not so much. I’ve personally been invited to multiple parties wherein I’d be expected to purchase some sort of elaborate cookware or homemade scented candles or something. It had occurred to me that hey, maybe going to these things would be a good way to meet women, but I suspect that all the hotties at the apron party are already spoken for. But I digress.
See, thanks to technology we get bombarded with so many invitations to “like” things, “join” things, attend things—eventually the wall of information grows so large we learn to tune it out. Ignore it. Because frankly, we all have better things to do. Trouble is, if we make this a habit we run the risk of missing good opportunities because we’re so preoccupied with our own lives.
This is what Jesus cautions his religious tablemates about at the party. Yesterday we looked at two quick parables that speak of the great reversal of values in the kingdom. When they heard this, Luke tells us:
15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (Luke 14:15)
The more I read this the more I wonder if he’s being a bit defensive. Jesus had just told them that their assumptions of status and “belonging” were faulty, and that they should extend love by elevating those from the lower rungs of the social ladder. But, this man seems to be insisting, what difference does it make? Surely everyone who joins the party has a good time, right? Jesus responds by telling a longer story about a great banquet:
16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ (Luke 14:15-20)
What are some of the reasons people might have for ignoring or dismissing the opportunity to invest in God’s kingdom?
Each of the invitees of this parable had an excuse for not being there. To be clear, none of their excuses were sinful. In fact, they were really good things. Yet the story would have shocked the guests at the table Jesus was sitting at. Why? Because hospitality was such a great value, that they would have been unable to believe that anyone would reject such an invitation.
If Christianity is a means to an end, then we may easily find ourselves in a similar position. If Christianity is a way to happiness, or a way of coping with grief, then we can easily find a variety of other things to serve those needs. And, if we share the mentality of the Pharisees, we can easily fall into the trap of confusing our prosperity with God’s approval. Jesus is essentially saying: Don’t assume that because you’ve found success in your work or your marriage that God is pleased with you. No; there’s something greater at stake, a heavenly joy we miss when we settle for earthly happiness. We’ve placed self-satisfaction as our highest priority, rather than self-surrender and self-sacrifice. The gospel romances us away from self into the joy of life in God’s kingdom. Are we willing to accept the invitation?