12 Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. 13 Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
Just as Jesus’ fellow guests had occupied themselves in normal, honor-seeking pursuits upon arrival at the meal, so Jesus’ host had followed ordinary conventions in putting together his invitation list. Invitations served as “currency in the marketplace of prestige and power” [Green, 552] for those whose framework was the world as we know it. See through the framework of the Kingdom of God, a different currency is the “gold standard.”
Jesus expands the picture of humility by exhorting his audience to invite to their dinner table the needy and those who cannot repay such kindness. Hospitality should be open to all. This kind of reversal of expectations and status is thematic in Luke (e.g., 1:52; 6:20-26; 18:14). In fact, in the very next passage, our meal story continues with Jesus reemphasizing the notion of inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (14:21), this time in a parable representing the eschatological banquet of God, which will include just such marginalized ones, with the “invited guest list” being left out (14:24).
Jesus admonishes that, whether at the early meal/lunch (ariston) or the main evening meal (deipnon), hospitality should be shown not to the rich and famous nor to family members, but to those who cannot repay the favor. In ancient culture, the one who hosted a festive meal, as today, would be placed on the invitation list for future meals at the guests’ homes. Jesus argues that such “payback” hospitality has no merit. The best hospitality is given, not simply exchanged in a kind of unspoken social contract.
Tannehill writes about this section (Luke, 230):
A formal dinner was a way in which an elite family (the kind of family who could afford such a dinner) proclaimed and maintained its elite status. The guest list was important, for the invitation indicated that one was accepted as a member of the elite. Family members and important people of the community needed to be honored in this way, and they would be expected to reciprocate. Jesus’ instructions in verses 12-14 conflict with this social function of dinners. It might be a source of honor for someone to give charity to the poor, but it is quite another thing to invite them to a social function in place of family and people of wealth, and eat with them. By doing this, the host is dishonoring family and rich neighbors and in their place is honoring the poor; or, in the eyes of the elite, the host is dishonoring himself by identifying with the poor. Therefore, verse 11 may apply to what follows as well as to what precedes. Those who invite family and people of status are exalting themselves by proclaiming their place in this group. Those who invite the poor and crippled are humbling themselves.
If God reaches out to all, then those who seek to honor God should reach out also. So the poor, crippled, the lame, the blind should be invited. (This list looks much like the list of Luke 7:22, with a few differences; it is repeated in Luke 14:21.) The poor and the powerless should be welcome. It is in this manner that one more and more becomes servant and thus disciple.
The point is that in doing good we should serve freely, without regard for our own prospects, leaving the recompense to God. This is the way Jesus went about doing good, emptying himself for others without counting the cost. There is Semitic exaggeration in the statement that one should not invite friends, relatives, and neighbors. The kingdom is for everyone, and our hospitality is to embrace all, especially those who are overlooked by most people.
Luke 14:11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted: The allusion to the OT and Jewish texts in Luke 14:11 indicates that the assertion in v. 10 needs to be seen in a larger, eschatological perspective. The source of honor (doxa v.10) in God’s kingdom is derived not from the social order described by affluent friends, siblings, relatives, or rich neighbors (cf. 14:12), but from the judgment of God who loves the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind (cf. 14:13). Jesus emphasizes that God implements new values in his kingdom, values that differ from those that control the contemporary social world. The text asserts that the only reward one needs comes from God who is unimpressed with such social credentials as govern social relations in Luke’s world. God acknowledges as guests in his kingdom only those who acknowledge their own poverty.
- Allen Culpepper Luke, vol. 9 in New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN.: Abington, 1995) 286-88
- Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke, vol. 3 of The New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Gorden Fee (Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1997)
- Scripture quotes from New American Bible by Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC.