Story 5: Eating with an Insulted Host
In this series, Every Meal is a Story, we are looking at stories in the Gospel of Luke where Jesus breaks bread with all sorts of folks where they live in order to teach simple truth. In stories 4-7 Jesus challenges cultural tensions that helps us choose to follow him. Jesus is not interested in self-righteous religion that leads to pride and judgment, but demands holiness and humility.
Read Luke 11:37-54
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal. Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.Luke 11:37-41
In our travels and encounters with people from other beliefs, we have chosen to join in festivals, rituals, and meals in our call to love people in their homes and way of life. Although we have gained entry into culture and homes with open doors to share our faith, there have been times we have insulted a host by not following strict religious or cultural rules. On one trip we were visiting a Christian leader and wife in the same city as the home of one of my international students. We were privileged to all be invited to a traditional meal with the student’s family. After the meal, her mother served us tea and as part of the family custom, read my tea leaves, an unacceptable practice among believers. The Christian leader was so insulted, that he escorted us to the bus station.
One of the religion scholars spoke up: “Teacher, do you realize that in saying these things you’re insulting us?” He said, “Yes, and I can be even more explicit. You’re hopeless, you religion scholars! You load people down with rules and regulations, nearly breaking their backs, but never lift even a finger to help.Luke 11:45-46 MSG
As a popular public figure and speaker, Jesus was a sought-after dinner guest. In this story, a Pharisee invites Jesus home only to be insulted by his guest being unwilling to follow the religious ritual of washing his hands before dinner. And then Jesus insults them further by pointing out the emptiness of following religious rituals while neglecting justice and grace for the common people.
The Pharisees were religious leaders Jesus accused of trying to look holy on the outside by avoiding certain practices and people while observing their religious rituals. Their observed holiness was attained by human effort in order to maintain their standing in the religious community. Jesus basically said they failed to mask the closed, disengaged, legalistic, judgmental, negative, and exclusive nature of their hearts: “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” (11:39)
So how do we choose holiness that is open, engaging, forgiving, loving, hopeful, and inclusive? How easy it is for us to think we are clean before God, and even holy, when we go to worship or serve our family and community. When things look good on the outside, it is easy to neglect the heart issues, allowing closed minded thoughts and feelings to go unforgiven and untransformed by grace.
In a well-furnished kitchen there are not only crystal goblets and silver platters, but waste cans and compost buckets—some containers used to serve fine meals, others to take out the garbage. Become the kind of container God can use to present any and every kind of gift to his guests for their blessing. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 MSG
Grab a water bottle or glass from the kitchen and drink some water. Think through what it looks like for you to be the kind of container God can use as a gift. Be honest with yourself about the “cleanliness” of your cup. Look at your spiritual disciplines and spiritual practices to see if any have become empty rituals. When someone doesn’t believe or practice as you do, are you “insulted” or open and engaging?
In the coming week, notice what you post, say or think about others online, while you are shopping, driving, or other common activities. Shaming, hate speech, and laughing at the misfortune of others have become common online, leading to angry, narrow-minded, and self-serving judgments. With your family or spiritual mentor, talk about where you can make a change in your social media usage to reflect a choice of holiness over judgment.
RESOURCE: From the Gravity Center: When you have an overly emotional experience in daily life, take a moment to be still and silent and click on the link to follow the steps: