Invite the Poor


"Woe to you that are rich, for you have received back your consolation." (Luke 6:24)

Jesus condemns the rich in Luke 6:24 because their use of money showed where their heart was: they used it to secure their lives and pad themselves with comfort and luxury and consolation, instead of using it to meet the needs of the suffering.

Jesus takes this saying from Luke 6:24 and makes a parable out of it in Luke 16:19ff.:

There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; and the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, "Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame." But Abraham said, "Son, remember that you in your lifetime received back your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things. But now he is comforted here and you are in anguish."

Why didn't the rich man give Lazarus the crumbs from his table? Because Lazarus was in no position to pay back any good thing. The rich man's life was governed by the law of reciprocity, by the earthly benefits he could receive back in all his dealings. He wore the finest clothes and feasted sumptuously and did not inconvenience himself with the poor, sick man at his very door. And so he went to hell, where everybody will go who uses his money to feast sumptuously with comfortable, respectable guests instead of using it to alleviate suffering.

When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, 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.

You will be blessed because they cannot repay you! You will be blessed because they cannot repay you! What an amazing thing for Jesus to say! We get ourselves braced for some good, solid self-denial. We screw on our willpower to exercise some disinterested benevolence. And Jesus turns around and says: Your self-denial for the poor will bring you great blessing. Your benevolence is not, nor ever could be, disinterested. Indeed, your eternal interest is at stake. "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). "If you lose your life (in love) for my sake, you will save it" (Mark 8:36). So in the end, for those who obey, there is no self-sacrifice. Who wouldn't count everything as rubbish in order to gain Christ?

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.