I get and appreciate the general principle, and I’ve seen it in action; but I’m not sure I completely approve of Jesus’ methods. He seems to be appealing to such a low motivation: Don’t try to elevate yourself, because think how embarrassing it will be when you get knocked back down where you belong! Bubbeleh, why would you do that to yourself? Think how much nicer it would be act all humble, and the host will be all, “Hey, what are you doing down there? Come on up, you old so-and-so!” right in front of all your friends. Ha!
So, that’s odd enough in itself. I sit in my pew and I think, “Boy, Lord, give us some credit! We do have other stuff besides self-interest going on here. Maybe urge us to transcend earthly concerns, abnegate ourselves in service of higher things, seek the better part, eh, eh?”
But instead, He does more or less what I do to my little kids: He bribes them. I know I’m not going to get a three-year-old to be patient at the DMV by reminding him that my children owe me obedience and respect as part of the natural order of things, and that he ought to control himself because he understands that it’s good for the entire family if Mama can get her license renewed before the deadline. That never works. But I may get the little spaz to behave himself if I promise him a Slurpee when we get out. Not edifying, but effective. The kid is only three, and we can’t expect much more from him.
Well, the second part of the parable isn’t very edifying, either. After telling the guests that they’ll get a treat if they stifle their natural impulses, Jesus also bribes the hosts, telling them that if they invite people who can’t possibly repay them with reciprocal invitations, then they’ll get a treat at the resurrection.
Sheesh. If Jesus had consulted me, I probably would have suggested that He say something like, “For in the faces of the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, you will see the very face of God, who is a still, small voice in the very last place you expect to see Him, so be like unto the mountain climber who, upon falling into a crevasse, fights every natural instinct he has and does the thing he hates most, climbing down into the darkness, and thus will he find salvation and, more importantly, enlightenment.” Instead, He basically says, “If you invite the poor people to your party, I’ll get you a Slurpee later.”
So I’m sitting in my pew, trying to imagine what this banquet would actually look like: the uggos scrambling for the worst seats, giggling to themselves over how awesome it was going to be when the host calls them up front, and then the host making like an exasperated math teacher, begging “Guys, you all need to move up. It turns out I didn’t invite anyone cool at all, so there are all these empty seats up front, so if you could all just move up, then I can collect my reward after I die, which is going to be soon if we don’t get this show on the road.”
Well, that just doesn’t make a lick of sense. What kind of party is that? I think that if Jesus had just checked with me, I could have written the parable a lot better, and the whole thing could have been more profound and more enlightening for everyone. Look, I don’t mean to get ahead of myself, or exalt myself, or put myself in a higher position than I . . .
. . . don’t mean to . . .
Huh. I think I just got Jesus juked by Jesus.
Okay, message received, Lord. It’s your party, not mine. Your gospel, not mine. Your plan of salvation, not mine. And I am yours, not mine. If you think I need to be bribed, then maybe, just maybe, you know me better than I know myself. I’ll try to behave myself now, and wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Slurpee, amen.