Luk_14:12-14. Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
IT is a thing yet to be learned in the religious world, that there is no part of Christian duty beneath the attention of those who hear the Gospel, or those who preach it. The Church is a building, which must be carried forward till its final completion. Its foundation must be laid; but in laying it, we must not imagine that it is of any use of itself; it is laid, in order to have a superstructure raised upon it; and the builder must advance in his work till he has “brought forth the top-stone.” St. Paul would “not be always laying the foundation of repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, but would go on unto perfection.” Thus we would do: and whatever our blessed Lord inculcated on his Disciples, that would we also inculcate on all who profess to belong to him.
Our Lord, dining at the house of a Pharisee on a Sabbath-day, set himself to correct some evils which he saw peculiarly predominant there. Amongst the company he perceived a spirit of ambition and self-preference; which he endeavoured to correct by a parable suited to the occasion. It should seem, too, that the feast was sumptuous, or, at least, that none but rich people were invited to it: he therefore, to counteract the pride which such a banquet fostered and displayed, told them what kind of feasts he approved; and that, instead of laying out their money in sumptuous entertainments, he would have them rather to spend their money in making provision for the poor. In conformity with this precept, we shall endeavour to set before you some rules and reasons for a proper expenditure of our money.
Two are mentioned in our text;
Do not waste your money in giving entertainments to the rich—
[We must not construe this so strictly as, to decline all friendly intercourse with our richer relatives or neighbours, or to refuse them the rights of hospitality; for kindness is due to them as well as to the poor, and doubtless may occasionally be exercised towards them in the way apparently forbidden in our text. But we must not affect high company, or spend money unnecessarily in entertaining them. Hospitality indeed is good; and we should “love if [Note: 1Ti_3:2. Tit_1:8. 1Pe_4:9.],” and not “be forgetful to entertain strangers; because some have thereby entertained angels unawares [Note: Heb_13:2.]:” but still this is essentially different from a fondness for parade and feasting; which, however vindicated as necessary to form connexions for one’s children, and to promote social intercourse, and to keep up one’s station in the world, is little else than sensuality and pride. To feast the rich, will involve us in great expense, which of course must lessen our means of doing good to the poor: therefore, though occasions may occur wherein we may not improperly exercise hospitality towards them, we must not find our pleasure in such feasts, nor should we devote to them any considerable portion of our income. The generality of persons account the keeping of high company, and the being able to entertain them in a splendid way, as the chief use of wealth; and they launch out into these kinds of expenses the very instant they have received such an accession of fortune as will enable them so to do. But we must shew ourselves of a different spirit, and not sanction by our example any such evil practices.]
Devote your property rather to the relieving and comforting of the poor—
[God has ordained that there shall always be poor amongst his people, in order that graces of every kind may be called forth into exercise among them [Note: Deu_15:11.]. These therefore are to be the special objects of our care; but especially those among them whom God in his providence has visited with afflictions which incapacitate them for labour; “the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.” The talents which God has committed to our care, are to be laid out with a particular reference to them. Under the law, it was appointed that every person should lay up the tithe of his increase every third year, for the express purpose of feasting “the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, in the courts of the Lord,” that all of them together might “eat and be satisfied [Note: Deu_14:28-29.].” In a similar manner, we also are enjoined at stated periods to “lay by us in store as God has prospered us [Note: 1Co_16:2.]:” and even those who are forced to work with their hands for their own maintenance, are yet required to labour the more, in order “that they may have to give to him that needeth [Note: Eph_4:28.].” It is true, that there is no need of throwing down all distinctions in society, and feasting with the poor on terms of strict equality; but to make them happy, should be an object near our hearts. Indeed it is, if I may so express myself, a godlike employment: for God himself has shewn a marked respect for the poor, in that “he has chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom [Note: Jam_2:5.].” He has set us an example of this very thing in the dispensation of his Gospel. In the verses following the text, he represents himself as having made a great feast, and invited many: and, because his invitations are slighted by the rich, the gay, the worldly, he says to his servants, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind: yea, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled [Note: ver. 16–23.].” Thus, as by his Gospel he makes them preeminently partakers of his spiritual blessings, so we also, as far as our circumstances will admit of it, should make them partakers of our temporal blessings.]
This, though felt and acknowledged by us as a duty, needs yet to be enforced upon us, in order that it may be reduced to practice: we will therefore proceed to enforce it by,
The two things which men aim at in the disposal of their money, are pleasure and advantage: and it is from an idea that these are more to be obtained by feasting with the rich, that people almost universally prefer that method of expending their property. But we do not hesitate to say, that the mode of expending it which has been recommended to you has greatly the superiority in point,
[We do not deny but that there is considerable pleasure in entertaining one’s friends: we must however assert, that that pleasure is carnal in its nature, and transient in its duration. But the delight which arises from providing for the poor, and making them happy, is solid, refined, permanent. If it were nothing more than the thought of contributing to lessen the miseries to which human nature is exposed, it would be very delightful; the very sensation of sympathy is exquisite: but the thought of being God’s messenger to them for good, and the hope that “by our means thanksgivings will abound to God [Note: 2Co_9:12.],” and that our heavenly Parent will be adored and magnified through us; this is a sensation which even an angel might envy. We can easily conceive the comfort which an indigent fellow-creature feels in being relieved from his distress; yet is that not to be compared with the happiness excited in the bosom of him who administers the relief: for One who cannot err has told us, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” The comfort of the relieved continues only whilst the pressure of his calamity is removed: but the donor may look back at the distance of many years, and feel again the same delights which he experienced at the first communication of his alms.
Amongst the many considerations which tend to perpetuate his comfort, one in particular is, that, in administering to the poor, he has ministered to the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Christ has condescended to identify himself with his poor members, and to regard every thing which is done for them, not only as done for him, but as done personally to him [Note: Mat_25:35-40.]. O what a thought is this to one who feels his obligations to Christ! I suppose there is scarcely an enlightened Christian in the universe, who has not envied the women who had the privilege of “ministering to him of their substance [Note: Luk_8:3.]:” but the man who delights in comforting the poor, occupies their province; and is privileged to view, as it were, the very person of Christ in all such guests. Verily, he can have but little love for his Saviour who does not feel more delight in this thought, than in all the gratifications which high company and a well-spread table ever afforded.]
[All the benefit that the feasting of the rich brings with it, is, the getting a good name among them, and the being invited to their feasts in return. The latter of these is what our Lord rather teaches us to dread, inasmuch as it cancels the obligation we have conferred, and makes our expenditure in vain [Note: ver. 12.]. It is to be lamented, however, that amongst his reputed followers, the being invited to feasts is no great object of dread. But the man who feasts the poor, can look for no recompence from them; (except indeed in their blessings and their prayers;) but from God, he shall be recompensed a hundred-fold.
The communications of grace and peace shall abound towards him whose delight is in doing good: “having watered others he shall be watered himself.” This is declared by an inspired writer in the most express and most eloquent terms: “If thou deal thy bread to the hungry, and bring the poor that are cast out to thy house; if when thou seest the naked, thou cover him, and hide not thyself from thine own flesh; if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not [Note: Isa_58:7-11.].” What a glorious recompence is this!
But there is a time coming when his recompence shall be complete. “At the resurrection of the just,” God will acknowledge all that has been done for the poor as “a loan lent to him; and he will repay it” all with interest [Note: Pro_19:17. 1Ti_6:17-19.]. We take for granted indeed that the person is a believer in Christ, and that, in relieving the poor, he does it for Christ’s sake, and not from an idea of establishing a righteousness of his own. This must certainly be supposed; else the liberality, however great, will only turn to the confusion of him who exercises it, and prove a foundation of sand to him who builds upon it: but, supposing the person’s state to be right before God in other respects, and his motives to be pure in the distribution of his alms, we do not hesitate to say, that he treasures up a rich reward for himself in the day that Christ shall judge the world; insomuch that a cup of cold water only that has been given by him from right principles, “shall in no wise lose its reward.” Jehovah himself in that day shall make a feast, a marriage-feast for his Son: and to it will he invite those who for his sake provided for the poor. There shall they sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; and be regaled with all the delights of Paradise. Well is it said in reference to that day, “Blessed are they which are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb [Note: Rev_19:7-9.].” Yes; in the words of our text it is said, “Thou shalt be blessed;” but how blessed the liberal man shall be, none but God himself can fully declare.]
We sum up the whole in two words of advice—
Accept God’s invitations to you—
[You have already heard that in his Gospel he has spread a feast, even “a feast of fat things full of marrow, and of wines on the lees well refined [Note: Isa_25:6.].” The persons whom he invites are, not “the rich who think themselves in need of nothing, but the wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked [Note: Rev_3:17-18.].” As his servants, we invite you all; and declare to you, that the poorer you are, and the more unworthy in your own apprehensions, the more acceptable you will be at his table. Need I say how much God will be delighted to see his table furnished with guests? Hear his own invitation: hear how he pleads with you, and entreats you to accept it; hear how he expatiates on the delicacies he has provided for your repast [Note: Isa_55:1-2.]. He sets before you nothing less than the body and blood of his dear Son; which Christ himself says, is “meat indeed, and drink indeed [Note: Joh_6:55.].” Think of this, and let nothing for a moment delay your coming.]
Conform your invitations to his—
[We are enjoined to “be followers (imitators) of God as dear children:” “to be merciful as he is merciful, and perfect as he is perfect.” Behold then at what expense he has made provision for our needy souls! “he has not spared even his own Son, but has delivered him up for us all.” Let not us then grudge any sacrifice for the comfort and support of our afflicted brethren. Economy should be practised, in order to liberality; and self-denial, in order to an enlarging of our ability to supply the wants of others. You well “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich [Note: 2Co_8:9.]: Let the same mind be in you that was in him.” Let the happiness of others be your happiness, and the luxury of doing good be your daily food. Thus will every thing you have be sanctified to you [Note: Luk_11:41.]: and the blessing of God will rest upon you in life [Note: Heb_6:10.], in death [Note: Psa_41:1.], and to all eternity [Note: Luk_16:9.].]