12. Then he told the man who had invited him, "When you invite people for lunch or dinner, don't invite only your friends, family, other relatives, or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they will return the favor.
13. Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the handicapped, the lame, and the blind.
14. Then you will be blessed because they don't have any way to pay you back. You will be paid back when those who have God's approval come back to life."
The good hostess works hard at inviting the "right" guests for the party—those who will be pleasant in conversation. If the dinner is a political occasion (whether of party politics or business) then the guests will be selected carefully to construct relationships which will further the purposes of the host. All this must be done carefully.
But there is more: the meal, the entertainment, the table settings, all must be "just so." Nothing must be left to chance; the exactly correct impression must be presented. The show must go on—and perfectly.
Not so with our Lord. Consider some of the people he invited to be among the twelve:
· Some were fishermen; of such fiery temper they were known as the "sons of thunder." Inviting a guest whose mouth is open before his brain is engaged is not wise.
· Some were of the radical persuasion. In this time Jesus included a genuine revolutionary, ready for bloodshed.
· Consider how well that radical got along with Matthew—a toady for the Roman regime, a tax collector, a man hated as a traitor to his own people.
These were some of the people Jesus gathered around him, and to whom he promised rich rewards. These were the honored, first guests at his eternal banquet.
We are his disciples; therefore we are to be his imitators. Does the circle of our friends include such disreputable characters? Or do we confine ourselves to those who are respectable? Those whose reputations will enhance our own?
It is easy enough to give money to feed the poor; there are any number of agencies willing to collect it and use it properly. This is good. But a better thing is that we, ourselves, take up the cross and deal with the matter directly. The beggar by the roadside looks filthy, but he is made in the image of God. Will we pass him by? Or will we feed him?
If we feed him, we feed the least—and our Lord tells us that as we treat the least, we treat Him. It takes imagination of the spirit to see Christ in that beggar by the roadside. The Lord of all reality, who spoke and all things began, assures us that it is so. Have pity on the poor; lend to the Lord; he will repay—and with rich interest.