He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Jesus' opponents are seething. They can make no reply after he confronts their hypocrisy. Having asked if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath, he healed a man despite their added rules. They know that of course they love their son and would pull him from a well on the Sabbath; their ox is worth money and would be pulled out as well. But when it comes to another person's illness rather than your own needs or comfort, the law conveniently becomes more rigid.
Nevertheless, the Sabbath dinner goes on. The dinner party moves toward the table in uncomfortable silence. Jesus is a people watcher, and he is not finished blasting their religious notions with his observations. In the center of the room is a long U-shaped table. The host will seat himself at the head of the table. The most honored guests will sit on either side of him, then in order of importance the guests will seat themselves down either side.
Jesus sees them posturing for the best possible seat. Perhaps some of them were even asked to move up and down in the rank, humiliating some and puffing others up with pride. Have you ever accidentally sat down at the wedding banquet table reserved for the bridal party of family and had to move? Embarrassing! Just from a practical standpoint it is better to be asked to move up to a better seat than to be bumped down a level.
Let's be honest - we all want the best seat at a banquet. In high school you wanted to sit with your friends, or even longed for the "cool table". There was always concern over who has your lunch period. At church dinners we sit with our friends and enjoy the fellowship. With a big group going out to eat, it is tough to sit at the end with the little kids and hear the adult laughter but miss the joke. It may be awkward to go sit and with someone who is alone or whom you find annoying. But we are called to seek humility and consider others better than ourselves. This does not mean we should never enjoy the fellowship of close friends and family. Instead it means we should long for the glory of God and the furtherance of his kingdom rather than the praise of man or our own comfort.
The Pharisee hosting the event is now thinking, "Man, Jesus is really laying into my guests. This is getting uncomfortable for them." Jesus turns to him and says "Oh, yeah, you too. It's pretty easy to invite over the other Pharisees and teachers of the law. They will in turn invite you over to repay your kindness as well as telling everyone what a great feast you threw. Big deal. If you really want to be righteous invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Invite the ones who cannot pay you back or bring you glory in the community." The Greek does not indicate that you should never invite your friends, but that you should not only invite your friends. You could rephrase his statement, "It is not so much trouble for you to invite your friends, brothers, and rich neighbors."
We always travel at holidays, but if we ever stay home I really want to invite a student from the local college who can't go home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. But even this would not be that difficult on my part. Imagine inviting over someone poor or homeless, someone without access to personal hygiene or proper attire for a party you held. Imagine inviting the disabled, guests whose needs make them more difficult to host. Considering the belief of Jesus' day that disabilities and disease were caused by sinfulness, imagine inviting prostitutes and drug dealers to your Sunday luncheon. Jesus asks a lot of people!
But this not another rule or religious construction. When making a dinner list it isn't necessary to write "Poor? Check. Crippled? Check. Lame? Check. Blind? Check." Jesus seeks a change of the heart. He desires followers who are humble and contrite who realize they are no better than those so easily excluded from society. But yes, we really must be willing to share our meals, our time, and our material blessings with those considered "less fortunate" or "less desirable" by our society today.
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:10