Products are often sold as exclusive. What does that word mean in reality?
I want us to learn that the word exclusive often carries with it an unrighteousness that God despises.
We will discuss exclusiveness and inclusiveness.
Breaking Exclusive Rules
Have you ever been in one of those churches where you were told touch not, taste not, and don’t do this or that on the Sabbath? That’s one thing I love about Jesus. He breaks the rules — the ones made up by mere mortals. One silly old religious rule that people invented excluded relief from suffering on the day of rest. Where’s that in the Bible? It isn’t, and Jesus pointed that out in Luke 14:1-14. Why do we make up burdensome rules? Do they not make us rely upon people instead of God? Do not our traditions too often stand in the way of the teachings of Jesus? Should we perhaps follow Jesus and break some rules? Will we then find true salvation from all the oppressive chains that bind us? Will we then discover faith, hope and love?
A Real Place of Honor
In Luke 14:1-14 we see how Jesus observed the pushing and shoving for position at a Sabbath banquet. His commentary is as relevant today as then. We live in a world where greedy people taking advantage of others are given higher places of honor than who give in self-sacrifice and humility. So, what is the real place of honor today? We may imagine the CEO of a large corporation who has a quarter billion dollar bonus and salary package with houses as big as hotels, access to a private jet, chauffeured limos and audiences with national leaders as having a real place of honor. Such honor is temporary and artificial. Yet a humble person who is hospitable to the poor, crippled, lame and blind has a real place of honor where it counts, at the resurrection of the righteous.
When we have an exaggerated view of ourselves, we will often try to exalt ourselves in front of other people. We may do it by grabbing the best seats at a gathering of friends (Luke 14:1-14) or by simply bragging. Self-praise stinks. Another symptom of an ego-driven life is the temptation to put others down. We see both self-praise and devaluing of others throughout life and despise it. We may ignore those who we consider to be not as pretty, or not as smart, or not as wealthy. Such an attitude is living a fiction. The reality is that every human being is equally as important and Christ expects us to live in such a manner as to acknowledge that as a fact. That means that we don’t exalt ourselves and we treat those who others disdain with respect.
Ego trips have always been and will probably always be a part of human history. National arrogance, election boasting and self-promotion are both old fashioned and new. Jesus addressed that very issue in Luke 14:1-14. Such pushing and shoving over power and prestige also occurs within the church, where it contradicts the most basic tenets of our faith. Jesus taught a parable about guests and hosts of wedding feasts and parties. The object lesson was that a guest ought to take the lowest place and a host ought to include the lowest people as guests. Jesus’ simple advice is seldom heeded. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. True long-term success in life is not gained by arrogant self-importance, but by humble and realistic self-assessment as no better than anyone else.
Humble pretense vs. humble reality
Some commentators of Jesus’ parable regarding guests and hosts seem to imply that he is encouraging us to act humble for personal gain. The parable is found in the passage Luke 14:1-14. The idea behind false humility is deceiving others so that they will think well of us. Did Jesus teach us to manipulate and mislead others by pretending? True humility is sincere, not deceptive. It literally means that we honestly face the reality that we are only a breath away from returning to dust, humus. Yet, we naturally run from humility. Wealth and possessions and entertainment deceive us into believing that we have a pseudo-immortality, that we can save ourselves or that we are somehow “self-made.” Nothing could be further from the truth. True humility is not faked. It is simply an honest self-estimation without flattery or deception.
The guest list
If we could choose any three guests in the entirety of human history for Sunday lunch, who would we invite? Many of us would include Jesus on that list, but do we? Jesus said that what we have done for the hungry, thirsty, foreigner, naked, sick and prisoners we have done for him (Matthew 25:31-46). If we think about it we may not want to invite Jesus, because he had a way of making a scene when invited to dinner. In Luke 14:1-14 he was a guest at a party and remarked as to how people behaved, jockeying for social advantage and playing political games. Then he gave us all a list of people that we ought to always include. He said that we ought to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind.
Ancient societies, especially Christian communities were hospitable to the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind (Luke 14:1-14) and to strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Yet, there is an unanswered question of security. How did such peoples protect themselves from crime and prevent strangers from taking advantage of them? This too was addressed by ancient Christian communities in several ways. First of all, ancient societies did not have such a privacy mentality as we do today; rather the community was there for mutual protection. Homes were designed to be only semi-private, with open access for mutual policing and security. Also, ancient Christian communities readily welcomed strangers, but if their stay was to be longer than a day or two they were expected to contribute to the work of the household. Perhaps we can learn from their greater sense of community.
Some of the first hospitals were created by the early Christian community as places of hospital-ity for the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind (Luke 14:1-14). There was usually no charge for the hospitality although those who could, often helped with some of the work. These ancient hospitals also had another purpose, they also housed traveling strangers. Hospitality as a business was almost completely unknown. Instead, hospitality was seen as an ethical and moral requirement of local communities in several ancient cultures. Christian communities taught people to have a room for strangers in their homes and some even built special facilities specifically for the hospitality of not only the sick, but also traveling strangers. How far we have fallen to where hospitals and hospitality have become big business, charging large sums and making extravagant incomes for some.
The Christian Ghetto
Whether it be Chinatown, Harlem or a Gypsy camp, we are all somewhat acquainted with ghettos. They can be places to fear, where those of a different race or culture seem unwelcome. Christian churches can seem like that to those on the outside. Even friendly churches that are tolerant of a diversity of opinions can seem suspiciously inhospitable to outsiders. How do we overcome this “Christian ghetto” syndrome? Jesus offered some very helpful advice in a world where rich, poor and outcasts would eventually meet together in local house churches. In Luke 14:1-14 he mentioned the kind of hospitality he expected of believers. Invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. In ancient society these were often considered to be misfits. Do our churches have a broadly welcoming atmosphere of open hospitality without regard to socioeconomic status?
Society’s A-list is a perversion of the truth. It is a false exclusivity. Those who are honored in this world are often on a very different list than those who will be honored in heaven. God’s desire is that we include many that society excludes.