“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. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14)
“And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” I like hosting dinners from time to time, having friends over, and enjoying their company. I don’t think I have ever gone out to invite poor, crippled, lame and blind, not intentionally in anycase. I don’t think I have ever intentionally not invited them either. It is what people do, they invite friends and family to these events. It helps strengthen the bonds between friends and family, at least in theory. Jesus isn’t saying you can’t do that. But he is saying if you have the money to put on a nice banquet, you also have the money to take care of the poor. You won’t be rewarded for that in this life. They can’t pay you back.
Of course, this shows just how much life in the west has changed. When Jesus said this it was true. Charity, mercy and things of the like were not common. Even the bread and Circuses of Rome were reserved for citizens, and non citizens were treated harshly for trying to take advantage. Rome’s citizens might not have all been rich, but they were hardly destitute. The Church changed that. The church took care of the poor and the destitute long before the nation saw any reason to do so. In fact, it wasn’t until this started to increase political power of the church that the governments of local provinces started to try and take care of the poor as a way of keeping the church’s influence in check. Ambrose was brought up on charges of impersonating the emperor because he threw gold to the poor, a right that was reserved for the emperor.
Today, governments tend to see the advantage in taking care of the poor, so they try to provide through different programs, including tax write offs for various civic, community building enterprises including churches. That is another story.
The thing is today, people are rewarded, and often handsomely for giving to charities, feeding the poor and so on, where as when Jesus said this that was doubtful. No body was praised for making a soup kitchen, no one thought being charitable was much of a virtue. I suppose that waxes and wanes today too.
Today, being as we have all these nice charities and legitimate ones at that, other forms of giving are discouraged. But when you have a chance to help out the less fortunate who won’t be able to pay you back, remember we have been given the love of Christ, and we have opportunity to share that.