I’ve been reading Luke 14 this morning and found Jesus talking about taking certain actions that are quite frankly unfamiliar to my experience. In one instance, Jesus talks about inviting people to your home who cannot pay back in kind:
14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors so you can be invited by them in return and get repaid.
14:13 But when you host an elaborate meal, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
14:14 Then you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (NET Bible)
Now I’m not an expert at ministering to the poor, but from what I’ve done, it’s my view that anyone with warm-hearted notions of nobly feeding the poor is in for a shock. It’s hard work that involves far more than just putting food on a plate.
Ministry to the poor has always left me with a notion that I am way out of my depth. Nevertheless, those with prior experience in this area have always helped solved problems and prepared me to be more effective.
And so I’m wondering, who should prepare the church for ministry to the poor? Seminaries? Snicker, snicker. The local church? More likely. If we have any hope of effectively ministering to the poor at all, the church needs experts with experience to lead the way forward. We can’t just jump into this ministry.
Lack of preparation means all involved are in for a disappointment. In addition, proper training will actually help those who would be otherwise indifferent get into the mix.
The other part of Luke 14 concerns the cost of following Jesus and the duty of disciples to consider it carefully. Besides the obvious reference to our blunders in the Iraq war, Jesus made it very clear that all who would follow have some serious considering to do:
14:28 For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 14:29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him. 14:30 They will say, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish!’ 14:31 Or what king, going out to confront another king in battle, will not sit down first and determine whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 14:32 If he cannot succeed, he will send a representative while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. 14:33 In the same way therefore not one of you can be my disciple if he does not renounce all his own possessions.
Does that sound like any of the evangelism practices we have been taught? “Take your time, think it over, don’t rush into this, it’s a very hard and costly way of life. Don’t take it lightly.” Hmmmm. I think we’ve always strayed toward the, “Jesus is wonderful and he’ll fill you love, joy, peace, and hope, why wait?”
You can’t candy coat the cross.