Luke 14:7 – 14
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. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” 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.”
Luke continues with Jesus speaking to others at dinner at the Pharisees house. He notices how each person chooses the seat that gives the most honor he thinks he can get by with to himself. Seats at the right hand of the host would show greatest honor – seats at the foot of the table, or perhaps even at a second table, would be least honorable, and those in between, like marks on a scale of 1-10, would carry varying degrees of honor. One who has gained status in the community might come in and look at the seating and think, well, maybe I can move up from a 9 to an 8 today, or someone really full of himself (only male guests were ever seated) might take the place of honor to the right of the host, the #1 spot. But the host might have planned to honor a different person that day, and might say to that one who seated himself in the place of honor – get up and give this person your seat, at which time the only remaining seat could be a #10. Now all this seams rather foolish to us, but look at how carefully seating is arranged at a state dinner with ambassadors and other important people! Jesus makes the point that if you exalt yourself, make yourself appear more important (don’t we all know arrogant people who do that?), then we will be humbled (and don’t we all know of arrogant people who have been humbled?). But if we humble ourselves, we will be honored.
Jesus was talking to the guests, but he continues his conversation about the rules for a dinner turning to his host. There were many rules concerning dining in Jewish society in those days. He says, don’t invite your family and your rich neighbors to your next banquet, expecting them to return the favor and invite you. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, those who can never repay you. Then you will be blessed!
Did you ever give a party because it was expected that after you had been to so many other parties you must entertain? Did you ever attend a dinner because you felt it was an obligation? Or have you ever invited someone expecting that then they would later invite you? These things are not so different from Jesus’ day. But Jesus says, what we give expecting a return is given simply for the return – as Jesus says in Matthew 6, they have their reward. It is what we give expecting no return that gives the blessing.