Sharing a meal with others can be a powerful experience. We all come to meals because we need to eat. We need our “daily bread.” But we often leave these tables enriched in other ways. We talk and we share. We divide up resources and we discuss our lives. It’s no wonder, then, Jesus uses the table as a setting for teaching us to relate to one another in God’s kin-dom. In this lesson, children will explore the parable in Luke 14:7-14 and will consider how its message of humility and inclusion extends beyond the dinner table.
Begin your time with the children by asking them to share what they know about the word humble. Have they heard it before? If so, when was it used? What did it mean in that context? What does it look like when someone is humble? Note that this word is used in the Bible several times. On the surface, it means “not arrogant or assertive,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. But its meaning goes deeper. It’s a way of living and acting that allows us to really connect with people and truly understand them.
Exploring the passage
Prepare to read aloud Luke 14:1, 7-14. Provide some context for the passage. Share with the children that they will be hearing one of Jesus’ parables. Ask them to share what they remember about parables. Remind them that a parable is a story that teaches people. Jesus often used parables to help God’s people understand what he was calling them to do. Parables often contain many lessons, and we discover different parts of them as we read them again and again. Jesus offers this parable to a group of people before sharing a meal with them. He has been invited to the home of an important religious leader in the Temple. Jesus and several other guests arrive at the home and take their seats. At that time, where a person sat around the table showed how important they were. The guests at this meal sit places that show their importance. Encourage the children what Jesus says about being invited to meals in this story.
Read aloud Luke 14:1, 7-14. After reading, ask the children to recount what Jesus says about where we should each sit when we’re invited to meal, such as a wedding banquet. Note that Jesus tells them not to take the best places at the table. Rather, pick the less desirable seat. Have the children wonder why choosing a “lesser” place at the table is better than choosing the best seat. What does it say about someone if they automatically take the best place at the table? What does it say about someone if they take the worst seat at the table?
Jesus continues the story shifting from being a guest at a meal to hosting a meal. Ask the children to share who Jesus says to invite to a luncheon or dinner. Then ask the children what they think of Jesus’ advice. Would they choose to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” to dine with them over their “friends, brothers, relatives or rich neighbors”? Why or why not?
Return to the word humble that you discussed before the reading. Ask the children to consider who is being humble in the parable. What does Jesus think about being humble based on this story?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect Jesus’ parable to their own lives. Prepare the materials necessary for this activity. You’ll need a table with enough chairs around it for all of the children to sit together. You’ll also want to have some sort of snack or small meal for them to eat. Ask each of the children to choose a seat around the table. After they have sat down, have them share why they selected that particular seat. Then, have them wonder how their choice compares to what Jesus suggests in the parable.
Next, place the snack or meal in the center of the table. Tell the children they can share and eat it as they choose. After they have distributed the food and are eating it, ask them why they decided to share the meal in this way. How did they decide to distribute the food? How did they decide how much each person would get?
Finally, invite each child to share something enjoyable they did this summer. Be sure each child gets a chance to speak. Once all the children have shared their stories, ask the group to reflect on the experience. Did each person listen to the others as they spoke? Did they interrupt or listen quietly? What made this experience enjoyable? What made it difficult?
Finally, share with the children that both Jesus’ parable and their experience at the table were opportunities to think about how we interact with people daily. What we do at the table is also what we tend to do in the larger world. Discuss what lessons the table can teach us about spending time with our families, friends and even strangers.
Conclude your time together by offering a prayer. Invite each person to call on God to help us to be humble so that all around us may experience God through us and may have what they need to live.