If you happen to be an investor, 2020 was a scary year. March sent millions into a panic as the stock market took a huge dive in reaction to the first wave of COVID-19 on US soil. Unlike risky monetary investments, Jesus directs us in the gospel of Luke to an investment that has no risk and a guaranteed payoff at the resurrection.
We’re not told the particularities of what our reward might be. But imagine how the maker of the sunset, sea animals, and sesame seeds might reward you. I would guess it will be more satisfying and delightful than any list we might make or parameters we could define. God wants to offer us rewards for making certain choices and putting our energy toward specific people while living here on earth. What actions bring such pleasure to the heart of Jesus that he would promise a reward for doing them?
Honor Those Who Cannot Repay
Jesus’s words to a Pharisee who invited him for a meal are helpful to us:
Then Jesus said to the man who had invited Him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you host a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed. Since they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12b-14)
Jesus told the man who invited him what really makes God happy: giving honor to those who can’t possibly repay it. Give it away, in big spoonfuls— in buckets, even. Give to those who have absolutely no way of returning in kind. Because that’s what God has done for you. Dignify them not only with a meal, but with your presence. Table fellowship was all about status in Jesus’s day. Sharing a meal signified acceptance, and even equal social capital. Jesus is directing this likely rich and powerful Pharisee to open his home to those who would never usually make it onto the guest list, because they weren’t in his same social circle. He is not shaming them for inviting friends; he is simply encouraging them to also invite the outcasts, the poor, and anyone who has no status.
Because those are the kinds of people God loves to love lavishly— the needy. He knows they cannot pay. But he is a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and he can pay. So he tells those listening to invite the needy, knowing they will be owed a debt, because God will pay them back. All over scripture we read about God’s compassion for widows, orphans, and foreigners, for those without power. He listens for them, defends them, and acts on their behalf, and encourages others to do the same. So much so, that he offers us some sort of reward if we follow in his footsteps.
Repaid in Eternity
“Since they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” As if salvation, seeing God face to face, and living in a totally redeemed world will not be enough to receive at the resurrection. He will repay us. As if he owed us something. It’s as if he says in this parable, “These are my special ones, my precious ones. Take care of them for me. I’ll pay you back.” It reminds us a little of the good Samaritan who gave money to the innkeeper to care for the stranger he found along the road. He promised more upon his return, for whatever the injured stranger needed. But this is no mere Samaritan promising a payback. This is the God of the universe, the Lord of Hosts. How might he pay us back at the resurrection? What might we expect on that great day, for these little kindnesses, for these acts that bestow glory on the least of these?
The longer we abide in Christ and are changed by his Holy Spirit, the more we will long for the things that please him. We will more and more want the things he wants and be filled with joy at the things that give him joy. We will find ourselves wanting to give glory away to those he loves simply because we love him.
Where might we find these objects of his affection? How can we invite those our Shepherd so desperately wants to exalt? We look for those who are marginalized, silenced, abused, and powerless. We have eyes for the outsider who doesn’t have our social capital and we invite them in. Maybe it’s the new immigrant family who moved in down the street who is navigating a new city. Maybe it’s the special needs child and their weary family who goes to your child’s school. Perhaps you invite them not to a meal, but to a conversation and then a friendship. Maybe you find yourself sharing resources with them, buying them groceries, or paying for some work to be done on their home that you know they cannot afford.
Whatever you do, whatever way you choose to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind,” know that it pleases your Father. Remember that he has also invited the poor, crippled, lame, and blind into his kingdom. He invited you to himself when you were spiritually blind. He continually invites you to repentance and forgiveness with you are lame with sin. He cares for you when you are in need. When you lend to him by giving to these, the least, he will not forget. When he returns in power to judge, dividing all people on the earth into the sheep and the goats, he will remember. He will treasure every act, dollar, and hour of listening. And he will reward you.
About the Author:
Christine B. Gordon, MATS, is wife to Michael and mother of three. She earned her Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Covenant Seminary. She currently lives in St. Louis where she works as the intake coordinator for a counseling center. She loves to walk, make music with other people, and share bad puns with her family. You can find 7 Bible studies written by Christine and her writing partner, Hope Blanton, here.