Inviting People Into Community (Luke 14:7-24)


Big Idea: Love and serve people through hospitality, because this is what Jesus has done for us.

Twelve people sat in silence, on the edge of their seats. You could have heard a pin drop.

They had pilgrimaged from Minnesota to muggy Orlando, and her stifling August humidity, for a weeklong intensive course on evangelism with Steve Childers.

With only a dozen students on board for five 9-hour days with one of the country’s top church-planting strategists, it was a rich week. These students learned about the advance of the gospel around the world and in personal conversation.

Time and again Childers had thrown them curveballs. He knew how to keep them on our toes. But now he had them nothing short of captivated.

“You know what the key to evangelism in the 21st-century will be, don’t you?”

He wasn’t talking Global South, but the Western hemisphere. I’m sure that he saw in the faces of the students how eager they were for his answer. Wow, the key, they were thinking. This is huge.

He paused and smiled that memorable Steve Childers world-evangelism grin. He waited. Still waiting. Still paused. Still nothing. Hold it . . . hold it. One of the was almost ready to burst with, “Just c’mon already!”

Finally he lifted the curtain.


David Mathis, who records this story, writes:

In a progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage the unbelieving with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.
When people don’t gather in droves for stadium crusades, or tarry long enough on the sidewalk to hear your gospel spiel, what will you do? Where will you interact with the unbelieving about the things that matter most?
Invite them to dinner.

For just two weeks, I want to spend some time looking at our mission as a church. Our mission as a church is simple:

“Inviting people into community to share in the beauty of relationship with Jesus.”

Today I want to look at the first part of our mission — “inviting people into community” — which is just another way of saying hospitality, inviting them to dinner. What Steve Childers said is the key to evangelism in the 21st century is also key to our mission as a church. We exist as a church to extend hospitality within the Liberty Village community and beyond.

To look at this, I want to look at a story with you. We just read it. It’s found in Luke 14:7-24. Jesus was invited to the home of a prominent citizen, and it was a dinner party. In verses 7 to 11, he speaks to the dinner guests. In verses 12 to 14, he speaks to the host, and in verses 15 to the end he speaks to his disciples and to us.

So let’s look at what he says on the subject of hospitality to each of these groups, and by extension, to us.

How to Be a Dinner Guest

In verses 7 to 11, Jesus teaches us how to be a dinner guest. In those days, teachers sometimes lectured or dialogued with students and disciples according to social rank. You could tell how important people are according to how close they sit to the places of honor.

At this particular dinner party, it seems that when people came in they got to pick their place. They jockeyed for position so that they were closest to the host so that they were seen as the most important people there.

This tells us something about ourselves, doesn’t it? There’s something about us that moves into social situations for what we can get out of them. We want to be affirmed and valued. We want other people to see how important we are.

But Jesus says:

When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:8-11)

Jesus isn’t just giving us an etiquette lesson so that we’re well mannered. He’s giving us a bigger lesson here. When we move into social relationships with an eye on what we can get from them, we’ve completely missed the point. But when we approach social situations with an attitude of loving people and serving people, without any concern for what we will get out of it, then we’ll not only be better prepared to serve people, but we’ll be actually receive greater honor exactly when we stop caring about it.

As we think about our church, and about inviting people into community, what if we entered social situations with the mindset of love and service without expecting to get anything out of it?

This is so important, because I think that one of our greatest opportunities as a church isn’t inviting people to activities and events. We do this, and we’ll continue to do this, but to be honest I think it’s not the way we’re going to make a lot of progress in our church. Events are expensive, they’re a lot of work, and in our community people are so busy, and there are so many events that it’s hard to get people to come to our events. Church events are not the best way to engage with people in the 21st century in our setting. I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m just not sure that they’re going to be the most effective thing we do.

Do you know what I think will be more effective? As we live in our community, and as we’re invited to people’s homes and to community events and activities, to go with a mindset of loving and serving other people. There are so many opportunities for us to do this, to intentionally accept invitations to other people’s homes, to coffee shops, to book clubs, to community meetings, to cooking classes, and to go not thinking about what we’ll get out of it, but what we can give to others.

When we do this, by the way, we’re doing exactly what Jesus did for us. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

So I encourage you, I charge you, let’s do this. Every time we’re invited into someone’s home, or to a community event, let’s go with an attitude of love and service. That’s what Jesus says to the dinner guests in verses 7 to 11, and it’s what we want to do as a church.

How to Be a Host

But there’s more. In verses 12 to 14 he speaks to the host. And what he says is so important to us as well:

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.” (Luke 14:12-14)

Jesus was speaking into a culture that wasn’t a meritocracy or democracy. It was a very hierarchical society. There were classes of people, and to get important stuff done, you needed to know the right people. To get ahead, you needed to reach out to those who were higher than you so that you could leverage that relationship to get what you needed.

The way to do this would be through hospitality. Plutarch, the Greek biographer and essayist, talked about the “friend-making power of the table.” You would invite people over, and the purpose would be to get something out of that. It would be a utilitarian investment designed to increase your status, influence, and power. You scratch their back, they scratch yours.

And what Jesus says here completely trashes that. Jesus says instead to invite people who can’t pay you back. Invite people, not because of what they can do for you, but simply because you want to love them and serve them.

The idea that Jesus is getting across here is hospitality. It’s an important word that shows up over and over in the New Testament. Romans 12:13 says, “Seek to show hospitality.” Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers.” When the apostle Paul gave the qualifications necessary to be an elder, a leader, in the church, he included hospitality as an essential. Hospitality is a forgotten and essential practice in the church.

What is hospitality? The Greek word comes from a compound of “love” and “stranger.” Hospitality has its origin, literally, in love for outsiders.

Loving other Christians is important and essential, but it’s not enough. In fact, Jesus says that if we just love those who love us, we’re no different from anyone else (Matthew 5:47). What is really unusual is to do what Jesus says in this passage: to show hospitality to people we don’t even know, and who can do nothing for us, because we want to love them and serve them.

I love how one preacher (Tim Keller) puts it: “Gospel hospitality is welcoming people into your living space and treating strangers as family so God can turn some of them into friends.”

Let’s break this down:

  • Welcome people into your living space — This means taking the initiative and inviting people over. There’s nothing wrong with inviting people to a restaurant, and that can be a good place to start. But there’s also something powerful about inviting people into your home whenever possible.
  • Treat strangers as family — This is where the Greek word for hospitality comes in: loving strangers. It means treating people you don’t even know like they’re family. So many people move into Liberty Village and don’t know anyone. But we have the opportunity of welcoming and loving them, so that they feel like they have a family right here. This means inviting your neighbors over. It means throwing floor parties. It means being the most hospitable people in Liberty Village with no expectation of what we’ll get out of it.
  • So God can turn some of them into friends — The thing is, as we do this, God will be hosting with us. It’s not just us reaching out to people; it’s God reaching out to people through us. And as we do this, God will bring into our lives some people that he’s been preparing. As we show them love, God may reach out to some of them and draw them to himself.

John Piper says:

Strategic hospitality . . . asks: How can I draw the most people into a deep experience of God’s hospitality by the use of my home . . . ? Who are the people who could be brought together in my home most strategically for the sake of the kingdom? . . .
Strategic hospitality is not content to just have the old clan over for dinner again and again. It strategizes how to make the hospitality of God known and felt all over the world…Don’t ever underestimate the power of your living room as a launching pad for new life and hope and ministry and mission!

By the way, we’ll keep loving people even if they don’t get any closer to God. We won’t just love and serve people if they respond to the gospel. We’ll keep on loving and serving people because it’s the right thing to do. We do it because Jesus taught us to love our neighbor. We do it because this is what Jesus did for us.

The first part of our mission is simple: to invite people into community. We want to be the most hospitable, loving, and serving people in Liberty Village, with no thought as to what we’ll get out of it. We do it only to serve.

I want to challenge you to be intentional in your hospitality. One of the best things you could do is to leave today and strategize how you can love and serve others through hospitality in your life.

There’s one more thing.

Why We Do This

We don’t really have too much time to look at verses 15 to 24, and that’s okay. Let me just summarize it for you. Why are we hospitable? Because hospitality is at the very heart of God. In these verses we read that God is inviting people to eat in the feast of the kingdom of God. Everyone is invited, but some will miss out. But God keeps inviting people — not the people you’d expect, but the poor, crippled, blind, and lame; the people who could never pay Jesus back.

In this passage, Jesus reminds us of his hospitality. He welcomes people who come and have nothing to offer. They get to eat and to feast at God’s banquet table free of charge simply because of God’s grace.

We’re hospitable because we serve a hospitable God, a God who welcomes and loves strangers. He’s a God who is inviting people today — maybe even you — to his feast.

Our church exists to invite people into community. Simply put, this means hospitality.

Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage the unbelieving with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.
When people don’t gather in droves for stadium crusades, or tarry long enough on the sidewalk to hear your gospel spiel, what will you do? Where will you interact with the unbelieving about the things that matter most?
Invite them to dinner. (Matthis)

Let’s love and serve people through hospitality, because this is exactly what Jesus has done for us.

Inviting People Into Community (Luke 14:7-24)
Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada