I don’t trust Jesus to help me navigate dinner party etiquette. I’ll follow Him all the way on everything else – praying, serving, being a peacemaker.
But not dinner parties! He was a nightmare. He’d attract extra guests you didn’t want.
Or show you up for your lackluster welcome. Or allow that woman to wipe his feet with her hair.
Or – as here in Luke 14 – make unflattering remarks about your other guests.
The scene is still easy to picture – it’s about that exquisite emotion we English do so well – embarrassment. It’s a wedding. You arrive and spot two seats up on top table. They’re normally for the bridal party. But you’re well-dressed, well-known – maybe they’re for you? Bypassing the seating plan, you march confidently past the other guests and enjoy their envy and admiration. You sit down to survey the scene. ‘Aah, here comes the father of the bride – no doubt to welcome us as honoured guests.’ But as he leans in to whisper you begin to sense something is wrong.
‘Thank you so much for coming,’ he says. ‘I’m afraid these seats are for my parents – Mum’s in the loo. We’ve put you on Table 13 – at the back behind the pillar. Oh, here come Mum and Dad…’
Now you have to get up, retrieve your coats, and avoiding all eye contact, push past the very same people before taking your seat with some bored teenage cousins of the groom, knowing that everyone is secretly delighted at your come-uppance.
Don’t big yourself up, says Jesus. Leave that to God and make straight for Table 13.
And then to make things even more awkward, Jesus further undermines his posh host.
‘Don’t invite just your friends, family and rich neighbours to parties like this. Invite the poor, the lame, the blind, instead.’
Throwing lavish parties isn’t actually generous if you see them simply as a down-payment, a guarantee of the return invite next month.
Real generosity is giving lavishly to people who are overlooked by the majority. People who can’t invite you back, pay you back, or make it worth your while.