Who Are You Inviting to Thanksgiving?

Who Are You Inviting to Thanksgiving?

In order to fulfill the Great Commission, we need to know whom Jesus wants us to invite to our Thanksgiving dinner.

John Piper said these words in 1980 when the fourth Thursday of November was right around the corner. As a new pastor wanting to lead his people to obey all of Jesus's commands, he opened to Luke 14:12–14.

[Jesus] said also to the man who had invited him, "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."

At this point — as you read this — an old sermon that's rooted in an even older text reaches into our present and waves us down. We should listen. The words of Jesus in Luke 14, after all, are for his church with transhistorical power. Right now in 2012, with the fourth Thursday of November a week away, Piper's 32-year-old exposition offers two points to keep in mind as you invite folks to gather around Thanksgiving dinner next week.

First, beware the law of reciprocity.

Piper explains,

There is in every human heart a terrible and powerful tendency to live by the law of earthly repayment, the law of reciprocity. There is a subtle and relentless inclination in our flesh to do what will make life as comfortable as possible and to avoid what will inconvenience us or agitate our placid routine or add the least bit of tension to our Thanksgiving dinner. The most sanctified people among us must do battle every day so as not to be enslaved by the universal tendency to always act for the greatest earthly payoff.

The people who lightly dismiss [Luke 14:12–14] as a rhetorical overstatement are probably blind to the impossibility of overstating the corruption of the human heart and its deceptive power to make us think all is well when we are enslaved to the law of reciprocity, the law which says: always do what will pay off in convenience, undisturbed pleasures, domestic comfort, and social tranquility. Jesus's words are radical because our sin is radical. He waves a red flag because there is destruction ahead for people governed by the law of reciprocity.

Second, Thanksgiving dinner helps reveal our treasure.

Why does it make such an eternal difference whom you invite to Thanksgiving dinner? It is not so much that this one afternoon is all-determining. The reason it makes an eternal difference is that it, along with many other occasions, reveals where our treasure is. Is Jesus, with his commands and promises, more valuable to us than tradition and convenience and earthly comfort? Is he our treasure or is the world?

That question is not decided during an invitation at church. It is decided at Thanksgiving dinner, and hour by hour every day, by whether we are willing to inconvenience ourselves for those who can't repay, or whether we avoid them and so preserve our placid routine.

It matters whom you invite to Thanksgiving dinner because it matters where your treasure is.

Excerpts from "Who Should We Invite to Thanksgiving Dinner?" (1980)

Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .