When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.” Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.
Born and raised in a strong Christian home, Micah spent most of her life actively involved in her home church until she moved away at the age of 18. Over the next seven years, she drifted away from church because she just couldn’t find one that felt like “home.” Shortly after she turned 25, Micah went through some situations that caused her to realize she desperately needed a radical change in her life and her hunger for God began to intensify.
She visited some churches near her home, but she felt isolated and alone when she was there. One Sunday morning, Micah decided to check out Gateway—a local church that some of her friends had recommended. Arriving about 25 minutes before the service began, she noticed that, unlike the churches she had previously visited, the greeters at the door looked her in the eye and immediately made her feel welcomed and at home. Micah found an empty seat near the front and patiently waited for the service to start. Mike and Karen Maddox, along with their three kids, sat down in the seats next to her, and quickly struck up a conversation with her.
The service began and Micah found herself drawn in and engaged by the worship and the message. When the invitation came at the end, Micah slipped out of her seat, made her way down to the front and waited for someone to pray with her. To her surprise, Karen Maddox came down to the front as well and asked Micah if she could pray with her. After they finished praying, Karen turned to Micah and asked, “If you don’t have any plans after church, why don’t you come over to our house and have lunch with us?” Micah gladly accepted the offer and went over to the Maddox’s home that afternoon. Mike and Karen made Micah feel like part of the family. That day, a relationship began that has continued to impact her life.
Although she thoroughly enjoyed the service and her time with the Maddox family, Micah didn’t go back to church until she lost her job nine months later. That experience completely rocked her world, and Micah realized that only God could help her now. The next Sunday, she went back to the church where she first met the Maddoxes. At that service, Micah made the decision to relinquish control of her life to God and depend solely on Him.
Micah quickly became a member of Gateway and joined the small group hosted by the Maddoxes. The group prayed for Micah’s job situation, and soon she got a job as a graphic designer at the church. After being a recipient of the Maddox’s example of kindness and hospitality, Micah has since opened her own home to host a group for young single ladies … all because of one family’s sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s leading to extend a dinner invitation to a young woman.
The Bible tells about another person whose life was transformed because of a dinner invitation. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector for the city of Jericho—similar to an IRS employee. He was notoriously famous for cheating people and had amassed a fortune by overtaxing the people. As the most corrupt guy in town, he was both a social and religious pariah, and people hated him.
When news reached Zacchaeus that Jesus had come to Jericho, his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to go see what all the fuss was about. Being a fairly short man, he wasn’t able to see above the crowd gathered around Jesus. But Zacchaeus didn’t get to where he was by not being resourceful. Looking around, he spotted a sycamore tree with limbs low to the ground that were ideal for climbing. He quickly scaled the tree, so he’d have a prime view of Jesus when He was passing by.
As Jesus was walking by, He looked up and saw Zacchaeus sitting perched up in the tree. Not having a house of His own, Jesus invited Himself over for dinner at Zacchaeus’ home. The Bible says Zacchaeus “took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy,” so it’s obvious that people really enjoyed being around Jesus. He never religiously judged or condemned people or looked down on them, except for those who were legalistic, hypocritical and judgmental themselves. In fact, it was the judgmental people who had an issue with Jesus going to Zacchaeus’ house, but of course, Jesus didn’t let that stop Him. And as a result, Zacchaeus’ heart was radically transformed. Here was a man who was as crooked and corrupt as they come, but because Jesus invited Himself over for dinner, Zacchaeus ended up not only giving away half of everything he owned to the poor, he also vowed to pay back four times the amount to anyone he’d cheated.
“Going” isn’t by any means limited to packing up everything you own and moving overseas to minister to tribes in the jungle. In fact, one of the most effective ways to minister is simply going out of your way to invite people over for dinner. Everyone has to eat at some point in time, right?
How hard is it to walk up to someone and say: “Hey, come over to my house and have dinner with my family and me this week” or “Let me buy you coffee this week”? It’s really that easy, and it’s always worth it!
Each of us is hardwired to pursue God wholeheartedly and to love one another without reservation. That’s the essence of the two greatest commandments—love God; love others. God wants us to reach out to others through our relationships with them. What better place to start than around the dinner table?