I Cannot Come (to the Banquet)!

“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests…but they all alike began to make excuses.”  Luke 14:16, 18

I’ve read this parable many times in the past.  There was even a song we sang in elementary school:

“I cannot come to the banquet, don’t trouble me now.
I have married a wife, I have bought me a cow,
I have fields and commitments that cost a pretty sum.
Pray hold me excused, I cannot come.”

For the most part, my reaction to this parable has been shock that people would reject such a great gift: the “certain man” being God, and the banquet being his kingdom (or perhaps the wedding feast of the lamb, mentioned in Revelation).

But reading it the other day, I found myself for the first time identifying with the guests who say they “cannot come.”  “I cannot come, for I am busy developing a video game.”  “I cannot come, for I’m busy with family and household stuff.”  “I cannot come, for I am more concerned about myself and my life right now.”

Later in that same chapter of Luke, Jesus talks about the cost of being a disciple:

“Those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”  Luke 14:33

In recent years, I’ve had a strong interest in drawing closer to God: becoming more and more of a disciple and experiencing the fruits of the Spirit in my life.  But this verse is challenging.  I love God.  But I also love my career aspirations, my comfortable American life, and so on.  As I wrote in a previous entry (and as my wife reminded me this morning), Jesus won’t necessarily ask us to give up all these things.  But at the same time, we must be willing to give them up.  God and his kingdom must be sweeter to us, more valuable than anything else in this life.  At moments, I feel hints of this.  But when I’m caught up in excitement for a game project or in dreaming of the house we’ll have someday…well, “You’re really asking me to be willing to give up those things for you, God?”

The key seems to be seeing the value in God’s kingdom.  This morning, while pondering how I could possible become willing to give up everything for Jesus, I thought of the parable of the hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44): a man finds a treasure so great, he went “in his joy” and sold everything he had so that he could have that treasure.  Essentially, if we’re really connected to how great a treasure God’s kingdom is, we’ll want to give up everything else in order to have that treasure.  So if the trappings of my life right now are seeming more enticing than Christ, this means I need to work on connecting to who Christ really is, and to what the gospel really means for me.

I can also rest in the fact that God loves me.  He truly wants what’s best for me, and so I don’t need to hold so tightly to the things I think I need.  As for the game project, I think he may even be supportive of it…but it can’t be the ultimate thing.

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