Disinterested Goodness

Disinterested Goodness

Pastor Don Carpenter

2021 Bible Reading Challenge / Luke 14:12–14

Brad and Libby Birky opened a restaurant in Denver, Colorado. It is a 40 seat restaurant that has one thing conspicuously absent, a cash register. They serve healthy food to people in need. The Birky’s do not charge for their meals telling people “Pay whatever you can afford.” Some do not pay anything but most pay a dollar or donate an hour of work. The name of the restaurant: SAME- So All May Eat.

This kind of selfless virtue is all too rare today. In our passage today Jesus also offers a radical motivation check to help us follow in our Savior’s footsteps rather than just making soft choices that mimic virtue.

Luke 14:12–14 KJV

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 thy 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.

Jesus’s third word is addressed ‘to the man who had invited him’. It is unlikely to be a personal accusation, since his host can hardly have had a return invitation in mind when he invited the poor preacher to his house, but again it is a general principle which could apply to anyone—the danger of calculating possible rewards. Real disinterested goodness is rare indeed; so much of what we do is coloured by the hope, if not the intention, that it may in some way work out to our own benefit.

Such a concern for personal advantage is another thing that will have to go if one is to get in through the narrow door. There, more than anywhere, self-interest is inadmissible. The humble aim of the would-be entrant should rather be, in the words of the old Latin hymn-writer, 

to seek his God

not for the hope of winning heaven,

Nor of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught,

Not seeking a reward;

But as thyself hast lovèd me,

O ever-loving Lord.

1 Michael Wilcock, The Savior of the World: The Message of Luke’s Gospel, The Bible Speaks Today (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 145–146.

Self Interest Limits Your Reward

Luke 14:12 KJV

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 thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.

Luke 6:32–35 KJV

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 

And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 

And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 

But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

Matthew 6:5 KJV

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

Here is a searching passage, because it demands that we should examine the motives behind all our generosity.

(1) Some people may give from a sense of duty.

He dropped a penny in the plate

And meekly raised his eyes,

Glad the week’s rent was duly paid

For mansions in the skies.

We may give to God and to others much in the same way as we pay our income tax—as the satisfaction of a grim duty which we cannot escape.

(2) Some people may give purely from motives of self-interest. Consciously or unconsciously they may regard their giving as an investment. They may regard each gift as an entry on the credit side of their account in the ledger of God. Such giving, so far from being generosity, is rationalized selfishness.

(3) Some people may give in order to feel superior. Such giving can be a cruel thing. It can hurt the recipient much more than a blunt refusal. To give like that is to look down on others. Some people may even throw in a short and smug lecture. It would be better not to give at all than to give merely to gratify one’s own vanity and one’s own desire for power. The Rabbis had a saying that the best kind of giving was when the giver did not know to whom he was giving, and when the receiver did not know from whom he was receiving.

(4) Some people may give because they cannot help it. That is the only real way to give. The law of the kingdom is this—that if we give to gain reward we will receive no reward; but if we give with no thought of reward our reward is certain. The only real giving is that which is the uncontrollable outflow of love. Once Dr Johnson cynically described gratitude as ‘a lively sense of favours to come’. The same definition could equally apply to certain forms of giving. God gave because he so loved the world—and so must we.1

1 William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The New Daily Study Bible (Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), 226–227.

 Living by the Law of Reciprocity

 Now you would think Jesus has ruffled enough feathers at one dinner: exposing the legalist’s ability to twist the law in order to protect their selfish convenience, and exposing the pride of those who crave the praise of men. You would think the party is over. But he is not done yet.

 He said also to the man who had invited him, “Whenever you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers, or your relatives or your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and it be a repayment for you. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For it will be repaid to you in the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12–14)

 Up till now Jesus has talked to the guests. Now he turns to the host. “Don’t touch that snake, lest it bite you and you die.” “Don’t climb that rope, lest it break and you fall.” “Don’t invite your friends and brothers and relatives and rich neighbors to dinner, lest you be repaid in kind.” What an unearthly argument! “Danger! Repayment ahead!” “Warning! This repayment may be dangerous to your health!” Who on earth would talk like that? Probably somebody whose kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36); somebody who knows that 1,000 years on this earth are like yesterday when it is gone (Psalm 90:4); somebody who knows that our life is but a mist that appears and in a moment vanishes away (James 4:14); who knows that he who saves his life now will lose it later, and he who loses it now in love will save it later (Mark 8:35); and who knows that there will be a resurrection unto eternal life, a resurrection of the just to live with God a million millennia of eons, if indeed he was our God on this earth. Jesus is the man. No man ever spoke like this man. And the people who call him Lord ought not to be like any other people.

 Take heed how you hear. There are some whose first and only reaction to Jesus’ words will be: “Well, he can’t mean that, because then we would have no more church suppers, no more Sunday School socials, no more family reunions, and even the Lord’s Supper would have been wrong.” Then, having thus defused the text and bent the sword of the Spirit, they move on to the next passage and right on through the New Testament justifying themselves and, just like the Pharisees, manipulating the law of Christ to preserve their unruffled tradition and convenience.1

1 John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (1980–1989) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2007).

Selfless Motivation Reflects Christ in You

Luke 14:13 KJV

But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:

Luke 4:18–19 KJV

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 

To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

John 9:2 KJV

And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

Well-to-do persons in the Greco-Roman world usually invited people of somewhat lower social status in return for receiving honor, but these invitees would still be relatively respectable, not absolute dependents or beggars, as crippled, lame and blind people would be in that society, or peasants (although many Jewish teachers might regard inviting beggars and peasants as an act of piety). The crippled, lame and blind were not permitted on the premises of the probably Essene community at Qumran.1

1 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Lk 14:13.

Call the poor

 In our Lord’s time, it was not considered proper to ask poor people and handicapped people to public banquets. (The women were not invited either!) But Jesus commanded us to put these needy people at the top of our guest list because they cannot pay us back. If our hearts are right, God will see to it that we are properly rewarded, though getting a reward must not be the motive for our generosity. When we serve others from unselfish hearts, we are laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20) and becoming “rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).1

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 230.

Selfless Motivation Enhances Eternal Reward

Luke 14:14 KJV

And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

Proverbs 3:9 KJV

Honour the LORD with thy substance, And with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

 Our modern world is very competitive, and it is easy for God’s people to become more concerned about profit and loss than they are about sacrifice and service. “What will I get out of it?” may easily become life’s most important question (Matt. 19:27ff). We must strive to maintain the unselfish attitude that Jesus had and share what we have with others.1

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 230.

 Our motive for sharing must be the praise of God and not the applause of men, the eternal reward in heaven and not the temporary recognition on earth. A pastor friend of mine used to remind me, “You can’t get your reward twice!” and he was right (see Matt. 6:1–18). On the day of judgment, many who today are first in the eyes of men will be last in God’s eyes, and many who are last in the eyes of men will be first in the eyes of God (Luke 13:30).1

1 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 230.

Years ago, late on a stormy night in Philadelphia, an elderly couple walked wearily into a hotel. They approached the night clerk at the desk and practically begged him for a room. Apparently there were three conventions in town, and every hotel was filled to capacity. “Are there any rooms left anywhere?” the old man inquired.

“I’m sorry. All of our rooms are taken,” the clerk said. “But I can’t send a nice couple like you out into the street and in the rain at one o’clock in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It may not be what you’re used to, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night.”

When the couple declined, the young man pressed it. “Don’t worry about me; I’ll be just fine,” the clerk said. “Just take my room.” So the couple agreed.

As he paid his bill the next morning, the older man said to the clerk, “You know what? You are the kind of man who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.”

The clerk didn’t think much about that, and two years passed.

The clerk had almost forgotten the incident when he received a letter from the old man. It recalled that stormy night and enclosed a round-trip ticket to New York, asking the young man to pay them a visit.

The old man met him in New York, and led him to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. He then pointed to a great new building there, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky.

“That,” said the older man, “is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.”

“You must be joking,” the young man said.

“I can assure you that I am not,” said the older man, a sly smile playing around his mouth. The old man’s name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

You see, when we give without worrying about being repaid, we can’t foresee the rewards of our kindnesses. But Jesus guarantees they will be repaid in countless blessings at the resurrection of the righteous — at the end of the world, when he comes to take his faithful people home with him to heaven.

Because that’s where the way of grace leads us: heaven.

SOURCE: Pastor Jeff Samelson in “The Way of Grace Is Clearly Different” on www.sermoncentral.com.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 4:09 PM November 3, 2021.