Note: This post is part of a series about building a personal relationship with God by reading the parables of Jesus. You can browse the entire series here.
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.Acts 17:26-27 NIV
We are important to God; these verses in Acts 17 tell us that he goes to great lengths to set up our lives so that we’ll reach out for and find him.
And when we do, we’ll discover that life with God is incredible. In the story we’ll read today, the Parable of the Great Banquet, Jesus portrays God’s Kingdom as a feast thrown by a generous man. The party is unearned and undeserved; the host doesn’t want anything from his guests, except for them to come and enjoy being with him.
Unfortunately, some of the people who are invited to the banquet don’t appreciate what they’re being offered. They make excuses and miss out on the party, and we can do the same thing today.
In this devotional, we will learn how to recognize excuses and entitlement in our own hearts so that we can grow in our gratitude for God’s generosity, and make sure we don’t miss out on “the banquet.”
Note: Martin joined Russ and Brian to talk about what he learned as he prepared for this devotional. You can listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app, or watch the episode in the video below.
Before you keep reading, take a minute to reflect on the following questions:
- What are some ways God has been reaching out to me, inviting me to enjoy a closer relationship with him? How have I been responding?
- Am I grateful and eager to answer God’s call, or do I make excuses to avoid the things God wants me to do?
A man sitting at the table with Jesus exclaimed, “What a blessing it will be to attend a banquet in the Kingdom of God!” Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations.”Luke 14:15-16 NLT
In the beginning of Jesus’ story, we learn about a man (who represents God) who prepares a great feast and invites many people to enjoy it. This teaches us that God generously gives all-access invitations to get to know him and be part of his Kingdom, and being with him is a great feast.
Contrary to what some may think, God’s Kingdom isn’t about following rules that restrict us from having fun and enjoying our lives. The opportunity to be close to God is actually an opportunity to enjoy a great feast with him.
When opportunities arise in our lives, we typically respond with either fear or faith. Studying the Bible and discovering that God was inviting me to build a deep friendship with him was exciting for me until I hit some roadblocks, and I felt afraid to make changes I knew I needed to make.
I couldn’t enjoy the feast God was offering me while making harmful choices in my life and relationships. I had to make changes that scared me, but were ultimately best for me and my relationship with God.
One of the changes I needed to make in my life was deciding to be honest instead of deceitful and distant in my relationship with my father. Initially, some close friends helped me to stop living in denial about my real feelings towards him. I had suppressed hurt feelings, which over time became resentment and apathy. But after being honest with myself, I was left with the overwhelming feeling of needing to talk to my dad to make things right.
I was afraid the conversation would not go well, but I was resolved and determined to be honest. And contrary to what I thought, I ended up having one of the greatest conversations I have ever had with my father. Both of us were honest and vulnerable with each other, and that conversation was certainly a defining moment in our relationship.
Responding to God’s invitation sometimes involves giving up other things we are doing—things that seem good but really don’t give us the life or relationships we desire. In my case, letting go of deceit and resentment helped me get closer to both my father and God (Matthew 6:14-15).
Decisions like these require faith. We have to believe that living life God’s way really is a feast. Without faith, my fears take over, and I think that if I do what God wants, bad things will happen (I’ll experience rejection from people, or I’ll miss out on things I desire, for example).
I have learned that when I avoid dealing with these fears, I very quickly turn God’s invitation into a set of rules and difficult expectations. I miss out on the feast and just see all the things I have to do that feel hard.
After living this way for a while, I get burned out and become more and more unmotivated in my relationship with God. Burnout and lack of motivation make everything feel forced. I no longer see God’s invitation as an opportunity to know him, but rather as a burden I would like to avoid.
Pause and reflect
- Do I see God’s invitation as an opportunity for a relationship or rules that burden me?
- What are some fears I have about responding to God’s invitation? How do these fears affect the way I view God?
The entitled make excuses
“When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’”Luke 14:17-20 NLT
All three of the guests in this story made excuses that are laughable:
- Inspecting a field you already bought – People typically inspect something before buying it.
- Trying out oxen you already bought – Again, people typically try things out before buying them.
- Recently getting married – Being a newly married couple doesn’t stop anyone from attending a great feast.
As we reflect on these excuses, it is obvious that the people in this story simply did not want to attend this banquet.
Unfortunately, I relate more than I would like to admit when it comes to making excuses in my relationship with God. I am also not always aware that I am making excuses. Here are five common excuses I have made when I don’t want to do something God wants:
- I can’t do it.
- I don’t know how to do what you’re asking me.
- I don’t have time to do that.
- I’m all alone, and I have no one to help me.
- I’m afraid.
Although this story does not say that the guests made excuses because they were afraid, I find that a lot of my excuses are rooted in fear. When I am afraid, I make everything about me and I become self-focused and self-consumed.
The dangerous combo of fear + entitlement
Still, my fear and excuses could be changed if I would have the humility to ask for help. This is where the combination of fear and entitlement is spiritually dangerous. When I am not only afraid but also entitled, I don’t see the need to get help with my fears because I don’t appreciate what God has given me. I take everything God gives me for granted and I don’t really feel like I need to respond to him, so I feel comfortable making excuses and going about my day.
I see this entitled heart in the people who received banquet invitations in Jesus’ parable. They weren’t grateful for the generosity of the man giving the feast, or for the opportunity they were being given; if they were, they would have responded with gratitude and eagerness instead of excuses.
When I was a junior in college, one of my friends was having a really hard time in life. He was making choices that weren’t best for him. One of our other friends asked me every week to call and talk to him, but I was afraid and made excuse after excuse: I am busy with classes, I am working too much, I forgot to call him, et cetera.
My fear convinced me that I was entitled to living a comfortable life enjoying everything God had given me without needing to care about anyone else. Eventually, a couple of my friends decided to challenge my excuses. I was angry and defensive at first, which is a classic move of the entitled when confronted with the truth. Then, finally, I let down and admitted that I was afraid of potential conflict.
As I talked through this, I realized that the goal was to help my friend go through his hardship with friends and not all alone. This realization helped me stop thinking about myself and making excuses, so I could connect with and help my friend. Plus, the conflict was all made up in my head; he was not confrontational at all and actually appreciated the help.
Pause and reflect:
- What are some excuses you make when you don’t want to do what God asks?
- Do you recognize any entitlement in your life? How does it affect your desire to respond to God?
- Do you get angry and defensive when friends challenge your excuses? Why?
The grateful get a banquet
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full. For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’”Luke 14:21-24 NLT
This passage helps us understand that although these excuses made the master (God) furious, he didn’t waste time wallowing in his emotions. He immediately extended the invitation to others, including those that society can easily exclude.
This is a great illustration of God’s heart. To him, we are all VIPs. He wants everyone with him, regardless of what society or others may say about us. The people who were grateful for that were the people who got to enjoy the banquet.
Sometimes, life gives us unexpected opportunities to overcome entitlement and become more grateful.
When I was in college, my best friend and roommate went through a really rough patch in life. He lost a couple of very close family members within a short span of time. In response, he decided to leave the state but didn’t communicate with anyone. I understood he was going through a hard time, but his lack of communication was painful.
After praying a lot to resolve my hurt and resentment, I realized this was a great opportunity to not be self-focused and self-consumed, but rather to be a great friend. I had many examples in my own life of receiving forgiveness after I had hurt others, including God, yet God had never given up on me. In fact, God would keep giving me more chances even when I hurt him.
Becoming more grateful for this helped me overcome my self-focus and respond to God’s call to love my friend (John 15:12-13). I decided to call him consistently. Although my friend did not respond to me for years, I kept calling him so that he wouldn’t feel overcome by guilt for leaving and would know he could always talk to me.
And then, almost a decade later, much to my great joy, we reconnected. I’m grateful that God changed my heart so that I could extend genuine care to my friend at the time he needed it most. It’s this gratitude for God that opens our hearts up to see the opportunities to love that are constantly around us. Who in your life has God given you opportunities to love?
Pause and reflect:
- As you reflect on your life, what opportunities do you have now to overcome entitlement and excuse-making?
- How do you think gratitude could help you in those opportunities?
- The more entitled I am, the more reasons I have to be self-focused. On the other hand when I am grateful, I am happier and motivated to be a great friend and respond to God’s call.
- What would your life look like if you consistently chose gratitude over entitlement?
- What will you do with the opportunities has God put in your life?