[Luke 14:15-24] When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
Invited to a Free Lunch
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Not just because someone else had to pay for the lunch to make it free for you – but because, even for you, that free lunch is not actually free. It has what is called an “Opportunity Cost”.
If you took high school economics you may have learned about ‘opportunity cost’. Every choice you make has an opportunity cost. When making a choice between two options, the opportunity cost is whatever you missed out on by not choosing the other option.
So, if I do option A, the opportunity cost is whatever I would have gained if I had done option B. It’s what I missed out on. If the benefit of A is greater than what I missed out on in B, then I made the profitable choice.
As an example, if my boss asks me to stay and work overtime, the opportunity cost might be the time I will miss with my family. Or, the other way. If your dear grandmother asks you over for a Saturday dinner, the opportunity cost of going to dinner is whatever you could have earned by working that Saturday instead. It’s all a value judgment.
Everything has an opportunity cost. If you choose to go out fishing one evening, the opportunity cost is the time you could have spent mowing your lawn. Whenever I eat a cheeseburger for dinner, the opportunity cost is the health benefit I could have gained by a salad instead. Or, if I eat the salad, the opportunity cost is the enjoyment I could have had with a cheeseburger.
Thinking in terms of opportunity cost can help me look back, in hindsight, and evaluate the cost and benefit of decisions I’ve been making. More than that, thinking about opportunity cost can reveal to me what it is that I’ve been valuing most. What does it mean that I keep choosing work over grandmother’s dinner? (She knows what it means). What does it mean that I keep choosing this or that over time with my children, my wife, or, for you ladies, your husbands?
Who can know his own heart? But my choices show me my heart. No one would knowingly choose what he believes to have the lesser benefit or value. What I choose over other options is outward evidence of what my heart really values and, perhaps, of what my heart really believes.
What’s the point of all this? In our Lord’s parable today, those invited to the Master’s feast each weigh the opportunity cost of attending. For one man, attending the Master’s feast would mean not inspecting the real estate investment he had just made – “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.” Upon weighing the opportunity cost of attending the feast, the man chooses his field.
Another invitee had just made a major purchase – five yoke of oxen. Another had just experienced a major life transition – he recently got married. Each weighs his options. For each, going to this free lunch would be too expensive because of what they value more. Their desire to be excused from the Master’s feast reveals the true love and faith of their heart.
The feast in our Lord’s parable today is not a roasted turkey or prime rib. The feast is the feast of God’s Word and Sacrament – a free lunch, paid for at great price by another, and having, every week, an opportunity cost for attending.
We all live day by day and week by week. At the end of each week there is a weighing of the opportunity cost for attending this feast of God’s Word. What do our choices reveal?
When those invited men in the parable turned down their invitations, the Master of the feast did not hold their spots for them at the table. Instead, He says, “My house will be filled”, and He fills His house with others - the crippled and the poor and the lame and the blind.
This parable shows that God really does desire His house to be full when His feast is celebrated. This parable also shows God as one who so desires to fill His feast that He will fill it with the poor in spirit and with the lame, crippled, and blind in righteousness. And this parable shows that it does anger God when those invited choose not to attend – “Then the master of the house became angry…”
These men who spurned the Master’s invitation had weighty reasons for doing so. And these men were not the lost who don’t know Christ. And they weren’t the strayed and wandering members. The parable for the straying or the lost is the parable of the lost sheep and of that Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine and rejoices over that one lost one when He finds him.
Instead, these men in today’s parable, who provoke the Master’s anger, are regulars – regular guests on the Master’s guest list – regulars who, nevertheless, so often find something more valuable to do, even though they know what good thing is being served at the table.
There is an opportunity cost in all that God has called us to do. There is a cost to living by God’s commands. There is cost – especially a social cost - to believing God’s Word. But there is a greater cost in not doing so. Yet, so often, we weigh the cost wrongly.
There is an opportunity cost to daily prayer – at morning and night. There is an opportunity cost to reading Scripture, to daily devotion, to learning your faith and to seeking answers to important questions. There is always, and will always be, some important thing you could be doing instead. But the time is short, and the invitation does one day run out. Weigh the cost rightly.
There is cost every Sunday. Being here means you are not doing something else. Each invitation to the feast presents the option, and therefore the temptation, to value something more or to trust in something more. And each action we take or don’t take, and each sentence we speak or don’t speak, involves the same choice. What we do reveals what we value and what we trust.
God has gone out into the streets and lanes, hedges and highways to invite you to His feast – lame, crippled, blind, and poor in righteousness as you may be. And He has invited the regulars – as sinful and neglectful in heart as you might be, He forgives. God desires His house to be full, as He said in the parable – “that My house may be filled.”
When weighing opportunity cost, choose the option that has the greatest value. Here, in this feast, is a free lunch – a meal of Word and Sacrament for the forgiveness of your sins, for life with God, and for salvation – bought at the tremendous price of another, the Son of God who carried your sin and gave His life as the price for your redemption. What He paid on the cross secured this feast for you today.
God spoke about this feast in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
A free, yet priceless feast. Brothers and sisters, week by week and day by day, weigh the cost of what you do. Receive and do those things which have eternal value. Amen.