People today clamor for thrills, excitement, adventure! We are strongly committed to having a good time. This usually means spending a good deal of our money, whether on a vacation trip or for routine entertainment. Too often we are “lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.”
Some persons look upon Christianity as a religion so restrictive that it could not possibly bring a person a good time. Yet when we befriend persons who are deeply committed Christians and who are actively engaged in putting their Christian principles into daily action, we see at once how truly happy they are. What is more, their enjoyment of life comes not from having one exciting experience after another. It comes from within themselves, from the deep satisfaction of having had their sins forgiven, and from being committed to following Christ in all the creative living and wide service to others that this can involve.
Jesus actually said something about having good time, and having it in the best possible way. In Luke 14:12-14 we read that Christ went to the house of chief Pharisee to eat bread on the Sabbath day. While there, He said His host: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.”
Surely it is common practice nowadays for families to invite friends, relatives, neighbors, to a meal. Jesus realized that when people invite to dinner persons who can support themselves, it makes the recipient feel obligated to reciprocate. Thus it becomes the turn of the original host to invite his friend again, and the result is a continuous circle.
What, after all, is the purpose of inviting persons who have enough money to support themselves, who know how to cook, who are not lonely? To Jesus, it did not make sense, for it left out the persons who need entertaining the most: those who are disabled, blind, lame, mentally retarded, or shut-in. These persons have no way, generally speaking, of reciprocating. Thus they are the very ones we should invite: blind Charlie, crippled Susie, half-wit Albert, stroke-victim Marilyn. When we give and do not receive like gifts in return, we stand the chance of being rewarded by the appreciation of those whom we entertain.
It is easy for our motives to be impure. Paul Tillich, a noted theologian, said that our motives are never really as pure as we should like to feel they are. Furthermore, we cannot even be certain what they are much of the time. It is possible to invite as guests into our homes persons we should like to favor for the prestige or honor it may bring us. I recall hearing Mrs. Smith tell my mother about an unhappy experience she had in inviting the minister’s secretary to lunch one day at her home. “So when got her old stomach full of chicken,” she said, “I popped the question to her, told her that for a long time I’d wanted to teach girls in the church school. But Miss Beppler told me that it was not her function to assign teachers. would need to see the church school superintendent for that.”
No doubt Miss Beppler believed that Mrs. Smith had invited her to lunch out of liking for her or out of friendship. Mrs. Smith actually begrudged having given her the meal because it did not result in the reward of a teacher’s job she had hoped to have.
Sometimes families may invite friends to their home in order to display their new home, its furnishings, or their new car. I used to have a cousin who had made considerable money by operating a wholesale bakery and three retail ones. Every time he got a new Chrysler, he came down to take us out for a ride. We rode in a Model T Ford in those days and did not have the slightest jealousy. If he could afford the Chrysler, it was all to the good, but it did not make us wish we had one. We believed, however, that he had a strong inclination to show off his wealth. To take our family for ride in each of his new cars was his way of demonstrating it.
Some other people may enjoy having guests in order to show the guests off to their family or to other guests. Margaret, a hero worshiper, invited to a Thanksgiving lunch one year a man who had had many magazine articles published. “My daughter and her boyfriend will be here, too,” Margaret said, “and I’d like for you to bring over some of your published material.” The writer, realizing that the woman would make an issue to her daughter and her friend of what he had written, though neither of them would likely be interested in his writings, refused to be her guest.
When people entertain the way Christ suggested that they do, the result can be joy. As former residents of Illinois and Iowa, my family have entertained relatives and friends from there we had known over the years. While it was enjoyable to renew old acquaintances and to learn of changes that had been made in our former communities and of what had happened to various townspeople we had known, it was not to be compared with an experience my mother and had when she invited Amy Bronson 2O lunch one day. “You’ll have to go after her in the car,’ Mother told me. “I’ll go with you, and we’ll help her out of her wheelchair into the car.”
This might have been the first time in ten years that Amy had been away from home. She ate everything with relish, and we let her do a good deal of the talking, as she was 50 happy that she was in talkative mood. After she had finished the meal and before we took her back home, we asked if she would like to take a little ride. This was especially a treat for her, for she had not ridden in a car for some time. We took her out on freeway so that she could see how the city had built up and how new residential areas had cropped up.
When we had taken her home, she could scarcely finish thanking us. Manifestly, her gratitude was honest; it was not feigned. As I look back over the great number of guests our family has entertained over the years, Amy Bronson stands out in my mind as the one who received the most good and who had the most joy. She was unaccustomed to such treatment. For someone who scarcely knew her and who was not a relative to be concerned enough to invite her to meal and then out for a ride was the kind of attention and love that she appreciated the most. It was very gratifying to us too.
One morning I was with a woman friend at church when the speaker, Muriel Lester, of London, who had written a good deal about prayer, asked at the close of her sermon, “How long has it been since we’ve visited people in hospitals and in prison?” My woman friend was put out by the question, but I insisted that the question was good one.
It is a matter that Jesus discussed somewhat at length in the New Testament. He talked about the redeemed and the lost and came up with what distinguished the two. In Matthew 25:34-40, He said: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for from the foundation of the world: for was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have of done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’
When we befriend, help, and entertain the poor, the lame, the blind, the disabled, we serve Christ. How great of our Master to identify Himself with the least of persons–those in the greatest need!
Originally published in Message Magazine’s July 1979 Edition by Aubrey B. Haines