Why Eat with Them?

Denise Vredevoogd

Read: Luke 5:27-32

And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” (v. 30)

Rachel Marie Stone in Eat with Joy writes, “Sharing food . . . is an important indication of welcome and friendship in virtually every culture” (p. 67). Eating together strengthens family and community ties, and is generally reserved for people whose company we enjoy.

Jesus’ radical move to accept Levi’s invitation to his “great feast” was unthinkable for the religious leaders. Eating with the enemy? The immoral tax collectors who swindled them and didn’t follow Jewish customs? When the Pharisees asked Jesus why he ate with sinners, the subtle message was that they themselves were not sinners. They drew a clear line between us and them. Jesus responded, “They need me. You don’t.” Jesus was “reclining at table with them” (v. 29), rubbing elbows, having conversations, showing acceptance and love. Levi had left everything to follow Jesus and wanted his friends to know him too, so his hospitality was also a mission outreach.

Many churches provide midweek community dinners or serve meals for mission organizations, which are valuable ministries. But cooking for someone isn’t necessarily the same as eating with them. We must be careful not to adopt the same attitude as the Pharisees, a those people mentality. Jesus listened to people’s stories and offered his company. He satisfied hungers that weren’t merely physical. He offered forgiveness and love. That is why Jesus ate with them. —Denise Vredevoogd

As you pray, ask God to show you the people you could eat with.