Our world has many marginalized people. The socially excluded lack access to housing, employment, healthcare, civic participation, and legal protection. Second class citizenship leads to poverty, crime, suicide, and drug addiction. The solution begins with something that Jesus taught, social inclusion.
Let’s learn how exclusive attitudes create an unrighteous division that God despises, and let's see a principle from Jesus that begins to solve one of our society’s greatest problems, marginalization.
We will discuss Luke 14:1-14 and inclusiveness. (To get the most out of this video, pause it and take a few moments to read the passage in your own Bible. Then restart the video for a discussion of marginalization and how to solve it.)
Problem: Marginalized by Absurd Rules (Luke 14:1-6)
Luke 14:1 One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. 2 There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. 3 Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, “Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?” 4 When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. 5 Then he turned to them and said, “Which of you doesn’t work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don’t you rush to get him out?” 6 Again they could not answer.
Invited to a Sabbath meal at a religious leader’s home, Jesus was watched closely. A man with hydropsy (an oedema, a swelling) was healed. People knew Jesus’ compassion and perhaps set a trap to see if he would heal on the day of rest. Jesus pointed out the absurdity of rescuing animals on the Sabbath but not rescuing sick people.
Literally, the Old Testament Sabbath was a mandatory rest day. Morally, human traditions regarding the Sabbath often made it a burden instead of a joy. Allegorically, church traditions can also become burdensome rules that harm the marginalized. Are church services a time of physical and spiritual healing? Prophetically, a weekly rest day pictures eternal rest for the poor and sick.
What exlusive rules does our society have that prevents the marginalized from starting a business or having access to health care and earning a reasonable income? What exclusive rules can we fight to change, so that the socially excluded can get some fairness and justice? Does the Christian community have a responsibility in fighting for fair national and community laws?
Cause: Taking God’s Seat (Luke 14:7-11)
Luke 14:7 When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: 8 “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? 9 The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table! 10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jesus observed the pushing and shoving for position at a Sabbath banquet. He shared a parable about a wedding feast to teach humility. Proverbs 25:6-7 says something similar. Conceited religious teachers had also taken God’s place by imposing their Sabbath rules. Arrogance does not understand the basic wisdom that humility brings honor (Proverbs 15:33; 16:18-19; 29:23).
Literally, we should take the lesser seat. Morally, arrogance will be humbled, and humility will be exalted. Arrogance is living a lie. Allegorically, the last will be first and the first will be last. Humility is honestly facing reality that we are only dust, humus. Prophetically, those who humble themselves in obedience to God will receive chief positions in eternity.
What can we do personally and socially to overcome the tendency to snobbishness and social standing? How humble are we? Do we fight to take the chief seats and exclude others by making silly rules? Is our participation in church and local community for self-aggrandizement or to help others? Do we monopolize the leadership and exclude others from an opportunity?
Solution: Being More Inclusive (Luke 14:12-14)
Luke 14:12 Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. 13 Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. 14 Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.”
Jesus gave us all a list of people that we ought NOT to invite: our friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. His A-list included the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Who was invited to our last party? How many on Jesus’ A-list were welcomed? How many people who are on Jesus’ A-list do we even know personally?
Literally, do we invite those on Jesus’ A-list? Morally, are church leaders setting the example of hospitality (1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:7-8)? Allegorically, when we invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, do we invite Jesus? Mystically, does the kingdom of heaven belong to the poor and earth belong to the humble (Matthew 5:3-10)?
Application: Rethinking Community
Ancient Christian communities were known for welcoming the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and strangers (Hebrews 13:2). Some of the first hospitals were places of hospital-ity for the needy. There was usually no charge for the hospitality although the able-bodied helped with household work. These ancient “hospitals” also housed traveling strangers. Hospitality as a profit-making business was almost completely unknown. It was seen as an ethical and moral requirement of local communities in ancient Jewish and Christian culture. Christian homes often had room for strangers and some even included special facilities for the sick. How inhospitable have we become, to where our hospitals and hospitality have become big business, charging large sums by people making extravagant incomes?
Our problem is a society that excludes the marginalized leading directly to poverty, crime, suicide, and drug addiction. The cause of marginalization is social exclusion. Jesus taught the solution: social inclusion. It begins with you and me. When we include the marginalized in our circle of friends, we begin to understand them and how lies have perpetuated their exclusion.
Man-made church rules can be arrogant declarations of exclusion. Christians can also be guilty of the exclusive pushing and shoving that Jesus witnessed among Jewish leaders. Society’s A-list is a perversion, a false exclusivity. Those honored in this world are often on a very different list than those honored in heaven. God’s desire is that we acknowledge our true state, humbly obey Him, and include those that society excludes.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.