Just yesterday, I went shopping for the Kids Quest Store. I was in Five and Below. The young man (probably in his early 20’s) that rang me up asked me about my purchases. I told him I was a Children’s Minister and as a church we held a store for the kids where they could spend the coins they earned. He reminisced the days when his grandmother would drag him (his words) to church as a child. Smiling, I asked him if he still attended church and he promptly said, “No.” Probing, I asked him why he did not attend anymore. His response, “I just grew out of church.” Ignoring his answer, I invited him to our church anyway. I gave him the details and directions as well as encouraging him that many young people his age were attending our church; he smiled appreciatively, but I could tell he was not interested in my invitation. Sadly this young man did not see his need for Christ. In his mind, going to church was just a “kid” thing to do. The bottom line: every person not attending church has their excuse. The question is, “Should I ignore this young man or persist?”
This experience reminded me of the parable Jesus shared about a Great Banquet to be served. We read…
A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all began to make excuses.
- The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
- Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
- Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ (Luke 14:15-24).
People make excuses constantly about why they cannot attend church. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us why? They love the world too much. They are more enticed by the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life than seeing their need for a Savior.
For example, the land owner in our parable suffered from the root called, “the pride of life.” His focus was on his position. Because he was so wrapped up in what his place in life had to offer, he saw no need to attend the banquet. In his mind, owning land was his greatest prize.
The oxen owner suffered from the root called, “the lust of the eyes.” His infatuation with materialism was stronger than his need for a Savior. In this man’s case, his prize was material not spiritual.
The newly wed who could not attend the banquet suffered from the root called, “the lust of the flesh.” We all know what newlyweds want to do with their time. Have sex! There is nothing wrong with having sex with your spouse, but in this case, it was more important to him that he feed his flesh than seek His Savior. He could still spend time with his new wife and attended the banquet. But like his former counterparts, he did not feel he needed a Savior. So being wrapped up in his new wife, he disregarded the banquet. His prize was the here and now.
What people don’t seem to realize is that “The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God (attends the banquet) lives forever” (1 John 2:17).
The man holding the festivities decided to turn his anger into grace; he told the servant to go into the streets, the alleys of the town and bring the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame – in other words, the desperate. The desperate know they need something more. They are at the ready to receive the grace of God. The pride of life has no hold on them, because often they feel unworthy. Position and material possessions do no lure them; simplicity of survival and someone who will simply care for them is their desire.
The interesting character in this whole parable is not the men who give excuses or the people the servant invited. It’s the servant. After the servant invites so many, there is still room at the banquet. But the man is not satisfied with some attending; he wants his banquet hall FULL. So what does the man tell the servant to do? He tells him to, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in…” The phrase “make them” does not mean to forcefully make people come, or drag them as the young man I met at Five and Below put it. Instead it means to persist, not give up – keep inviting. Specifically, look for the broken, the downcast, and the desperate, because they are ready to dine with the Savior.
So, what am I to do with this young man at Five and Below? I’m to persist. I’m going back to that store, not to buy things, instead to invite this young man again. To show him, that as an adult, he is more ready to attend church than he ever was! Pray for me and pray for this young man to listen and come to Christmas. I don’t know if he is desperate or downcast, but I am desperate for him to know Jesus.