And He also went on to say 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, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12-14 NASB)
When you are invited to dinner at someone’s house, there is certain etiquette dictated by culture (every culture) we are to follow. Different cultures have different etiquette, but there’s always something. I strongly suspect that First Century Jewish culture didn’t have an etiquette clause that permitted Jesus to suggest to His host he invite someone else. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that by the time Jesus made the suggestion, the host was probably thinking he wished he had; just not the ones Jesus suggested.
Meals are social gatherings, or should be. We enjoy eating with people we like to “hang out” with, so we invite those people to meals. Sure, we can use meals for “social climbing” and can expect that the people we invite would invite us to their place for the same reasons we invited them. It’s part of being social.
In First Century Israel, meals were also religious to a degree, but still retained the social aspects. I don’t know for sure, but I also suspect that Gentile cultures around the Mediterranean Sea had similar social aspects, though not always with religious overtones. Today, meals can be social in closed family circles, wider friendly circles, or broad social circles. In no culture of the day Jesus said these words, nor in today’s Western Culture is it common practice to invite the groups Jesus suggests to the meal.
Jesus knows this. So why would He suggest it? He makes it a big point too because His emphasis is on the reward for doing so. There’s reward for inviting according to culture only in that culture. There is reward for inviting the disenfranchised only in heaven. He is, in essence, challenging His host on what is of more importance to him, culture or heaven. Regardless of time or culture, the challenge remains. What is more important?
Two things: 1) What is more important to you, the culture you live in here on earth, or heaven to which we journey through this life? 2) What do you learn from these words of Jesus to His host?