Jesus went to a dinner party at the home of a religious leader. He noticed the guests choosing places of “honor” or importance at the table. When a guest was seated near the host or another high-ranking person it showed they were important, well-connected, or powerful . . . or at least more than the guests in less desirable seats. Then Jesus told a parable, saying that guests would be wise to chose a less-honored seat. Better to be invited to move to a better-placed seat than be asked to give up an honored seat for a more important guest. He also told the host, rather than inviting friends and family who would surely reciprocate and return the invitation, to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” for they are not able to repay the host.
The question of better or worse places at a banquet table are a little lost on me (I don’t run in circles with seating charts and important dinners), but the notion of jockeying for position in a group, trying to make connections that will be advantageous in work or social settings, or thinking about who is more or less important/powerful/honored in a gathering are all certainly familiar to me. Humans seem to be hard-wired to try and sort who is in what position, and to try and better their place.
Jesus’ parable and instruction to his host makes it clear that God is not invested in the hierarchies we are trying to build. God sees those who are least valued by our society (or our group of friends, or our classmates, or our family) with the same care, compassion and love as those who are most valued. There is no more or less valued person in the eyes of God – we are all beloved children. While we each will bring different gifts and abilities, various experiences and expertise, contrasting priorities and perspectives, we are each valued the same by God. When we use our resources to include those who cannot repay, we are living out the generosity Jesus invites us to. We are using what we have for others, rather than for ourselves. As we make our way through this week (and our lives), Jesus invites us to humility, to generosity, and to making a community where all are welcome and honored.